On August 25, 2021, the Nantucket Residents Against Turbines (ACK RATs) filed a complaint challenging the recent Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed Vineyard Wind project to build wind turbines off the southern coasts of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. ACK RATs’ chief concern is the potential impact that the Vineyard Wind project will have on the critically-endangered North Atlantic Right Whale population, which has only approximately 400 individuals remaining. Vineyard Wind signed an agreement in 2019 with various conservation groups, not including ACK RATs, which contains measures to be taken during construction of the wind turbines to lessen the impact on the North Atlantic Right Whale including items such as limiting construction during the whales’ most active months, limiting vessel speeds in the area, and monitoring to ensure construction does not take place when whales are nearby.
ACK RATs’ complaint alleges that various Federal agencies have violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The NEPA claims focus on the alleged failure by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to analyze alternatives to the Vineyard Winds project, its impacts on the environment, and possible mitigation measures. The ACK RATs also allege that the best available science was not used to prepare the EIS. The final claim alleges that the ESA was violated through failure to ensure that the project will not jeopardize the North Atlantic Right Whale and other endangered species.
While ACK RATs’ complaint may face an uphill battle, a similar lawsuit against the Cape Wind project was able to disrupt that project in 2015. If the complaint is successful, the EIS would likely have to be redone before the Vineyard Wind project could proceed. However, the overall goal of the lawsuit may be to create a situation like the one that led to the Cape Wind project’s downfall or to at least further delay the Vineyard Wind project.