A Big Day for Offshore Wind: Federal Court Overwhelmingly Rejects Cape Wind Opponents’ Claims

Sue Reid

In a sweeping decision issued today, a federal court in the nation’s capitol ruled against Bill Koch’s Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound and other Cape Wind opponents on a series of claims they had brought against the nation’s first offshore wind project. The decision is a significant milestone for the 130-turbine Cape Wind project, which today took a huge leap forward after more than a decade of exhaustive reviews. It’s also a critical milestone for the United States, which lags many years behind other nations in tapping into abundant, clean, renewable offshore wind resources.

The decision was issued in connection with several cases that collectively embodied an “Everything-AND-the-Kitchen Sink” approach to challenging the project. The court rejected a variety of claims brought under the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act. The Court also rejected plaintiffs’ efforts to pursue a fishing expedition for additional documents and information outside the scope of the federal government’s lengthy and detailed review.

While the court’s decision directs the federal government – specifically, US Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service – to take additional procedural steps with respect to two limited issues, we are confident that these steps can be swiftly completed based on extensive information and analysis already on hand. And CLF will continue to support Cape Wind, together with our partners NRDC and Mass Audubon, who joined us in submitting “friend of the court” briefs in the federal litigation.

So, why is Bill Koch’s Alliance claiming victory and crowing that Cape Wind supposedly will be “sent back to the proverbial drawing board”? Good question. The Court found that the federal government’s review was thorough. The judge overwhelmingly rejected opponents’ broad array of claims. Today’s decision also essentially provides a roadmap for completing two limited additional procedural steps. So, the Koch-funded Alliance’s rallying cry rings more than a little hollow.  Kind of like more wishful thinking from opponents driven by a strategy of “delay, delay, delay…”  Thankfully, today’s decision propels Cape Wind forward and is good news for the nation’s clean energy future.

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