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Offshore wind sparks new lawsuits

FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2016 file photo, three of Deepwater Wind's five turbines stand in the water off Block Island, R.I, the nation's first offshore wind farm. An offshore wind project off the island of Martha's Vineyard, off the Massachusetts coast, that would create 800 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 400,000 homes, was approved by the federal government Tuesday, May 11, 2021. The Vineyard Wind project, south of Martha's Vineyard near Cape Cod, would be the first utility-scale wind power development in federal waters. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Michael Dwyer
Three of Deepwater Wind's five turbines stand in the water off Block Island, R.I.

A federal lawsuit has been filed against the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and three other federal agencies for an offshore wind project off the coast of Rhode Island.

Non-partisan, Rhode Island-based Green Oceans has filed the lawsuit, claiming the bureau has broken the law by giving Danish energy company Orsted permits for their South Fork Wind and Revolution Wind projects.

Dr Lisa Quattrocki Knight, the president and co-founder of Green Oceans, said their lawsuit is about where these wind farms will be located — at Coxes Ledge off the Rhode Island coast.

“It is an incredibly biodiverse marine ecosystem that NOAA designated in November as a habitat of particular concern because it is one of the last remaining spawning grounds for southern New England Cod,” Quattrocki Knight said. “And is a winter foraging region for five endangered whale species. Nothing should ever have been developed on Coxes Ledge and yet they have gone ahead and permitted these two projects.”

Revolution Wind is set to power homes in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Parts for the 65-turbine wind farm will be constructed and shipped from State Pier in New London, Connecticut — a regional hub for the offshore industry.

Nicole Verdi, the New England Head of Government Affairs and Policy for Orsted, said they can’t talk about the lawsuits but recognize there is pushback against this new industry in the US. The lawsuits have not been filed against Orsted.

“The states in New England have really ambitious mandates or goals when it comes to the clean energy transition,” Verdi said. “But the states aren’t going to build clean energy, you need to partner with developers. Orsted tries to be that partner, to really help support the clean energy ambitions of the states, and we do try to do that in a thoughtful, genuine kind of open educational approach and we’re going to continue to do that. And hopefully, you know, folks will understand what we’re doing and why and be supportive.”

The Preservation Society of Newport and the Southeast Lighthouse Foundation, which are both based in Rhode Island, have both filed federal lawsuits against the bureau as well, claiming the BOEM ignored the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it granted Orsted its offshore wind permits.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.