Environmental and watchdog groups on Friday filed the first legal challenge to a wind farm off Cape Cod since federal agencies gave final approval to the project, alleging that the 130 turbines planned for Nantucket Sound will endanger protected migratory birds and whales.
A lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., alleges that required scientific studies were not done and that mandated protective measures were ignored. It also alleges that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treat Act, and National Environmental Policy Act.
Since the nation's first offshore wind farm was given final approval in April by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, opponents have promised to mount legal challenges to block it.
Groups filing the first lawsuit include the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and Cetacean Society International.
The groups say federal agencies refused to adopt recommended protective measures for the endangered roseate tern and the threatened piping plover, including shutting down turbines during peak migration periods.
They also accuse federal officials of refusing to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement after receiving new information that a large aggregation of the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale was in the area.
"The approvals were based upon scientific misconduct to the detriment of wildlife," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER. "One small indication of that is that government scientists indicate that two federally listed birds may be driven to extinction, yet those concerns were not reflected in any of the official agencies' documents."
Terri Edwards, a spokeswoman for the Northeast office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the agency "did a thorough evaluation of the biological effects of the project based on the best available science." She did not comment on specifics of the lawsuit, saying the agency had not had a chance to review it.
A spokesman for the Department of the Interior said the agency, as a matter of policy, does not comment on pending litigation.
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