offshore wind farm under construction

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U.S. Fishermen File Lawsuit Challenging Federal Approval of Nation’s First Large-Scale Offshore Wind Project

Mike Schuler
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September 13, 2021

A group representing the U.S. commercial fishing industry has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Energy’s Bureau of Offshore Energy Management (BOEM) over its approval of the Vineyard Wind 1 offshore wind energy project.

The 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind project will be located approximately 12 nautical miles offshore Martha’s Vineyard in the northern portion of Vineyard Wind’s lease area. The project won federal approval in May, becoming the first large-scale offshore wind farm to receive federal approval.

On Monday, Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), a broad membership-based coalition of fishing industry associations and fishing companies, filed a Petition for Review in the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals accusing BOEM of acting too hastily in their approval of the project, thereby adding unacceptable risk to the fishing industry without any effort to minimize unreasonable interference. RODA says the project design approved by BOEM would endanger fishermen by placing turbines too close together for fishing vessels to safely navigate in inclement weather or heavy seas.

“This is a precedent-setting decision by BOEM, and it is critical that they get it right so that future projects are following a trusted roadmap instead of a flawed and dangerous example,” says Anne Hawkins, Executive Director of RODA. “Unfortunately, this lawsuit is the only recourse fishermen have to ensure the fishing communities’ concerns are addressed.”

The U.S. fishing industry has remained steadfast in its opposition to the development of offshore wind projects and contends that their voice has been ignored throughout the regulatory process.

“This action is the culmination of many years of conscientious participation by fisheries professionals only to see their expertise and value summarily ignored by decision makers during the leasing process,” RODA said in a statement regarding the lawsuit.

“Our nation’s fisheries are managed through a participatory process in which fishermen’s concerns are heard and marine expertise valued through transparent science-based processes, but this has not happened with offshore wind. Late last year, BOEM announced the termination of the federal environmental review process for Vineyard Wind. Just weeks later, immediately after the change in administration, the agency abruptly announced ‘completion’ of that same review and a new, erroneous interpretation of existing law that would inform its decision without even accepting public comment,” the statement adds.

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