Newport, B.I. preservation groups sue to stop offshore wind farms, saying they’ll spoil view

NEWPORT – Decrying what it calls the fast-tracking of hundreds of skyscraper-high structures that would dwarf the Statue of Liberty, the Preservation Society of Newport County filed two appeals in federal court on Nov. 22 to vacate the permits issued and halt the development of two offshore wind farms planned off the Rhode Island coastline.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, two separate appeals against the approvals were also filed by the Southeast Lighthouse Foundation, based on Block Island. Both organizations are being represented by Washington D.C.-based law firm Cultural Heritage Partners PLLC.

The four filings assert a case of regulatory capture that led the U.S. Department of Interior and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to “shirking its responsibility to the public and allowing corporate energy developers to set the terms for permitting,” and asks the court to issue a construction injunction and find the developers violated federal laws and regulations governing energy development, including the National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act.

The growth and pace of offshore wind permitting, touted by government officials at every level as necessary to end reliance on fossil fuels, has also sparked debate among some environmentalists for what they view as industrial encroachment on natural resources.

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A Nov. 22 press release called the projects “unprecedented” in scale and if completed would adversely affect the collective “viewshed,” historical assets and tourism economy. PSNC CEO, Trudy Coxe, said the nonprofit organization supports green energy, but “for two years … pointed out serious problems with the federal permitting process” she says went unheeded.

“Green energy projects need not come at the unnecessary loss to our community’s irreplaceable character and sense of place,” she said. “These historic resources deserve the due process mandated by federal law.”

According to the federal filings, the wind farms “will despoil ocean views to and from hundreds of historic properties along the coastline” and “industrialize Newport’s iconic Atlantic Ocean views for at least the next 30 years.”

Onshore work for Revolution Wind is already underway, with offshore construction expected to ramp up in 2024. And turbines for South Fork Wind, which would provide 132 megawatts of power to New York, are currently being installed.

A separate statement issued on Nov. 22 by Cultural Heritage attorneys said Block Island “is awakening to the reality that the number of visible turbines off its coast will soon grow” and “despoil the Island’s treasured views for the next 30 years.”

One notable difference between the Newport and Block Island appeals is the claim that Orsted mistreated Block Island by not compensating it for negative environmental and economic impacts. The company reportedly paid $170 million to Brookhaven, New York, and $29 million to the Town of East Hampton, while offering “virtually nothing except a hodgepodge of nonsensical mitigation measures, such as weed-whacking the Lighthouse parking lot,” according to the filing.

SELF chairman Gerry Abbott in a statement said “Block Island is obviously not anti-Wind Energy,” but called the developments “a complete industrialization of our ocean view.”
Messages to representatives for Orsted and the U.S. Department of Interior were not immediately returned.

1 COMMENT

  1. Ahhh, how refreshing! More lying NIMBYs supported by a right wing legal group based in D.C. to help slowdown offshore wind development at all costs. Where were these folks who just popped up out of nowhere over the past several years when this was being developed and permitted? Seems weird, right?