Heavy Toll on Wildlife Prompts Lawsuit Against Cape Wind
Scientific Reviews of Impact on Endangered and Threatened Birds Skewed
Washington, DC — A coalition of groups filed suit today against federal agencies responsible for approving the proposed Cape Wind turbine farm on the grounds that the project will exact a terrible toll on federally protected migratory birds. The suit contends that required scientific studies were not done and that mandated protective measures were ignored in approving the controversial 130-turbine project slated for Nantucket Sound, a principal bird migration corridor off the Massachusetts coast.
The lawsuit filed today in federal district court in Washington, D.C. contends that the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (until recently known as the Minerals Management Service) and Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treat Act, and National Environmental Policy Act in green-lighting the offshore wind farm. Plaintiffs include Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Lower Laguna Madre Foundation, Californians for Renewable Energy (CARE), Three Bays Preservation and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, as well as Cindy Lowry, Barbara Durkin, and Martha Powers. They are represented by the Washington, D.C. public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.
Among the issues raised by the suit are the –
- Refusal to adopt recommended protective measures for the endangered Roseate Tern and the threatened Piping Plover, such as shutting turbines down during peak migration periods;
- Refusal to collect or submit acoustic, radar, infrared, or observational data on bird migration; and
- Failure to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement when new information came to light that a large aggregation of the highly imperiled North Atlantic Right Whale was present in the project area.
As a result of these failures, there is no reliable information on how many birds will perish in the huge turbine blades despite requirements that the best scientific information must be used. In addition, there are questions about whether the project will harm, harass, or kill critically endangered Right Whales.
“We are in this lawsuit because science was manipulated and suppressed for political reasons to which the Obama administration turned a blind eye,” stated PEER New England Director Kyla Bennett, a biologist and lawyer formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, noting the role of the (now former) Minerals Management Service and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “Condemning rare birds to extinction is not required for offshore wind development.”
A January 2010 Interior Inspector General report found that the agencies reviewing the project’s environmental impact study were unnecessarily rushed in their reviews because of the applicant’s desire to complete the environmental review prior to the exodus of the Bush Administration. Moreover, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists protested that the lack of data that made it impossible to adequately assess the project’s impacts on birds. The agency then reassigned the lead biologist.
“After years of personally witnessing the destruction of precious coastal habitat to wind industrial complexes, I am disturbed to see the federal agencies entrusted with the protection of our public waters act so recklessly in approving the Cape Wind project,” concluded Walt Kittelberger, Chairman of the Lower Laguna Madre Foundation.