(Illustration from the BOEM Cumulative Historic Resources Visual Effects Assessment)

RI - Preservation Society Appeals Wind Farms Approval

The Preservation Society of Newport County has filed two law­suits in U.S. District Court challeng­ing the thoroughness and lawful­ness of the federal Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) permitting review process, which has approved two offshore wind farms in Rhode Island waters.

The lawsuits seek to appeal BO­EM’s approval of the projects, which are joint ventures between multinational energy giant Orsted and regional utility provider Ever­source. They also seek an injunc­tion to put a halt to construction until the court makes a decision regarding the appeal.

The Preservation Society, repre­sented by Cultural Heritage Part­ners, argue that the permitting re­view process failed to comply with both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) when it granted approval to the 12-turbine South Fork wind farm slated to bring power to the Hamp­tons in New York, and the 65-tur­bine Revolution Wind project slat­ed to bring power to Rhode Island and Connecticut.

According to Orsted and Ever­source, the 12 turbines in the South Fork Wind project will be out of sight from East Hampton’s beach­es when completed.

The issue for the Preservation Society, however, is that while the 12 turbines might be out of sight from Long Island’s upscale Hamp­tons area, they will not be out of sight from Newport, nor will Revo­lution Wind’s 65 turbines, each of which will tower to a height of 873 feet at the peak height of their blade rotation.

The organization contends Rev­olution Wind’s 65 turbines will be visible from some of Rhode Island’s most popular coastal destinations, including Newport’s Ocean Drive and Bellevue Historic Districts, Sa­chuest Point in Middletown, and Little Compton’s South Shore Beach and Goosewing Preserve.

BOEM’s Environmental Impact Statement on the Revolution Wind project, which was first made avail­able in August 2022, alsoindicated that the view from The Breakers, Marble House and Rosecliff, all Preservation Society properties, would be impacted.

“We support green energy,” said Trudy Coxe, CEO of the Preserva­tion Society, in a Nov. 22 press re­lease announcing the legal action. “For two years, we pointed out se­By rious problems with the federal permitting process, but BOEM nev­er listened. Green energy projects need not come at the unnecessary loss to our community’s irreplace­able character and sense of place.”

The lawsuits have drawn a criti­cal response in the form of an open letter to Coxe signed by represen­tatives of prominent academic, sci­entific, and organized labor institu­tions, including the Brown University Climate and Develop­ment Lab, the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, and the Rhode Island AFL-CIO. The letter calls on the Preservation Society to aban­don the lawsuit.

Greg Werkheiser, a partner at the law firm representing the Preserva­tion Society, said the claims that the Preservation Society is anti-environ­ment for demanding BOEM hold offshore wind developers to the standards of its existing federal per­mitting review process represents “a simple and false narrative.”

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