Posted on October 23, 2023
Cape May County filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against multiple federal agencies and their leaders, alleging that federal regulators have abandoned their obligation to protect the environment and Atlantic coastal marine life in favor of an “inappropriate collusion” with the developer of a proposed offshore wind energy farm.
The county is joined by fellow plaintiffs the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Wildwood Hotel Motel Association, Clean Ocean Action, the Garden State Seafood Association, LaMonica Fine Foods, Lund’s Fisheries and Surfside Seafood Products.
The suit is being handled on behalf of the plaintiffs by Roger and Nancie Marzulla of the Marzulla Law Firm in Washington, D.C., with assistance from County Counsel Jeff Lindsay, County Special Counsel for Offshore Wind Michael J. Donohue, and Greg Werkheiser of Cultural Heritage Partners based in Richmond, Virginia.
“As we’ve said many times, we spent the better part of two years trying to negotiate with Orsted to redesign this project in a way that would cause less damage to the environment and less damage to our tourism and fisheries interests,” Cape May County Board of Commissioners Director Leonard Desiderio said in a news release announcing the suit.
Desiderio continued, “Our reasonable proposals fell on deaf ears as state and federal regulators rubber-stamped permits to rush the Ocean Wind One project to approval. We believe the federal permitting process was fatally flawed and we have assembled a great legal team to pursue these issues in the federal courts. There is far too much at stake to do nothing. This suit brings together important stakeholders in Cape May County willing to fight to protect our economy, our environment and our future.”
The suit alleges, among other things, that federal regulatory agencies ignored the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and a host of other federal laws and regulations in reaching decisions to rush approval of permits for Orsted’s Ocean Wind One project off the shores of Cape May County.
“Two things have been conclusively established so far,” Donohue said. “First, these are nonpartisan issues, with leading voices on both sides of the aisle in New Jersey and throughout the country now voicing the same concerns about the negative impacts of offshore wind projects that Cape May County has been raising for the past two years. Second, constructing this project and all of the other proposed offshore wind projects, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, will have no positive impact on climate change or reducing global warming.”
A consensus is building that these projects are moving too fast, without proper regulatory analysis and with too many unknowns and tremendous potential for environmental and economic harm, county officials say.
The Cape May County Board of Commissioners, joined now by additional plaintiffs, voted unanimously not to allow Cape May County and its environment, tourism industry and fisheries industry to be “the subject of a massive, reckless experiment that will permanently change our way of life, without an unprecedented and aggressive challenge in the federal courts,” according to the release.
Orsted recently reported that it will suffer impairment on the Ocean Wind One project of over $2 billion, that it will delay certain aspects of the project and that it is entertaining walking away from the project if it cannot maintain profitability.
The county suit, brought as a challenge under the Federal Administrative Procedures Act, is anticipated to be decided before the end of 2024, with an expectation that the federal courts will force federal regulatory agencies to put Orsted’s permits on hold and go back and fix the flawed processes that were utilized to ignore important environmental, marine species, economic and historic resource protections, the release stated.
To view the lawsuit, go to capewindinfo.com.