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.”