Cape Wind offshore energy project wins significant legal victory

Cape Wind, intended to be America’s first offshore wind farm that will help catalyze a domestic offshore wind industry and related supply chain, won a significant legal victory on March 14 against project opponents in their four lawsuits that had challenged Cape Wind’s permitting approval by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The wind farm will be located miles from the nearest shore on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound, a roughly triangular area of the Atlantic Ocean offshore from Massachusetts. It will consist of 130 wind turbines producing up to 420 megawatts of clean, renewable energy.

The Court rejected the plaintiffs’ request to vacate the granting of the nation’s first offshore wind lease by the Dept. of the Interior to Cape Wind. In his rulings, United States District Judge Reggie B. Walton upheld the Dept. of the Interior’s review and approval of Cape Wind, a comprehensive permitting process that took ten years.

Judge Walton rejected a long list of legal claims raised by project opponents, including arguments over navigational safety, alternative locations, alternative technologies, historic preservation, Native American artifacts, sea turtles, and the adequacy of the project’s environmental impact statement and biological opinions.  In two narrow instances, Judge Walton has asked Federal agencies to clarify its findings on whales and birds.  The order indicates that the case is administratively closed until the Court is provided with the clarifications.  Cape Wind expects these two compliance actions to be minor agency administrative actions that will not impact Cape Wind’s financing schedule.

“These are incredibly important legal victories for Cape Wind.  It clears the way for completing the financing of a project that will diversify New England’s electricity portfolio by harnessing our abundant and inexhaustible supply of offshore wind,” stated Jim Gordon, Cape Wind president.  “It will help pave the way for other coastal regions to utilize this clean energy resource for energy independence, a healthier environment, and new jobs.”

-Bill O’Leary

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