WASHINGTON, DC -- In a landmark win for the environment, the U.S. District Court D.C. ruled today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service need to revisit Cape Wind's impacts on migrating birds and endangered right whales in Nantucket Sound due to violations of environmental protection law.
"This is good news for environmentalists and for all of us who want to see the fragile and unique environment of Cape Cod protected," said Audra Parker, President and CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. "The court has validated that federal agencies have taken unacceptable shortcuts in their review of Cape Wind."
The court ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) violated the Endangered Species Act in their reviews of the massive industrial project that has struggled to get off the ground for the last 13 years. The court remanded the case to FWS to independently evaluate a shutdown of turbines during migratory bird season. FWS has acknowledged this as the most effective measure to reduce bird mortality; however, Cape Wind has resisted the measure as one that would destroy the economic feasibility of its proposed project.
The court also ruled that NMFS can no longer avoid fully evaluating impacts to right whales and must formulate and issue an incidental take statement because of the documented presence of this highly endangered species in the area and the potential for Cape Wind to cause harm. In recent years, rare right whales have repeatedly been seen in the area.
"Given the presence of right whales in Nantucket Sound, NMFS can no longer ignore the need to protect this endangered species from potential harm from this industrial project," said Parker.
The lawsuits were filed by a group of concerned advocates for the environment including Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the Cetacean Society International, Three Bays Preservation, the Town of Barnstable, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound and several others. The plaintiffs have long argued that Nantucket Sound is the wrong place for this project. The court's decision requires the federal government to go back to the drawing board to take the required hard look at the impacts that make Cape Wind's proposal so harmful for the environment.
The court ruled against the coalition of environmental advocates and other groups on several other issues but those decisions may be appealed.
Covering 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound between Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, an area the size of Manhattan, Cape Wind would consist of 130 wind turbines, each standing 440' tall. The project would not only cause environment impacts to Nantucket Sound but would add billions of dollars of unnecessary electricity costs for MA ratepayers. A new lawsuit was filed recently in US District Court in Boston challenging NStar's contract to purchase Cape Wind's expensive power for violations of the Federal Power Act and the US Commerce Clause.