Posted on December 4, 2023
The Preservation Society of Newport County, which owns 11 historic properties, and the Southeast Lighthouse Foundation on Block Island filed appeals this week of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s approval of the South Fork Wind Farm and Revolution Wind.
“We support green energy,” Trudy Coxe, CEO of the Preservation Society, said in a statement. “For two years we pointed out serious 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 were filed in federal court in the District of Columbia. Both groups are being represented by Cultural Heritage Partners, a law, policy and strategy firm that has also worked for Newport, Block Island and Nantucket on offshore wind impacts.
Opponents say feds never tried to minimize impact of wind farms
As part of its evaluations of the wind farms, BOEM considered visual impacts along the southern New England coastline. According to simulations included in the review, turbines would be visible from Newport’s Cliff Walk, Middletown’s Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge and other historical and cultural sites in and around Newport during the day, and their lights would be visible at night. They would also be visible from the Southeast Lighthouse on Block Island.
The appeals argue that even though the review process concluded that the turbines would be visible from shore, the federal government failed to eliminate or attempt to mitigate the visual impacts.
The groups say that the federal government also failed to consider the cumulative impacts of not only the two wind farms named in the lawsuits but also several others in the region that have either won approval already or are going through the permitting process. In total, hundreds of wind turbines, each standing as tall as 800 feet at its highest point, would be installed in the waters roughly between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard.
Critics say Biden administration pressured BOEM to approve wind farms
The Southeast Lighthouse Foundation said BOEM conducted “sham regulatory reviews” that were rushed by political pressure from the White House. Dr. Gerry Abbott, chairman of the foundation board, described the development of offshore wind as “a complete industrialization of our ocean view.”
The Biden administration is pushing to develop 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by the end of the decade in an effort to help decarbonize the nation’s electric system and rein in greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, Rhode Island and other states have set ambitious climate goals that require steep increases in the use of renewable energy.