Heavy Toll on Wildlife Prompts Lawsuit Against Cape Wind

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kyla Bennett (508) 230-9933 [PEER];
Paula Dinerstein (202) 265-7337 [PEER];
Jessica Almy (202) 588-5206
[Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal]

Heavy Toll on Wildlife Prompts Lawsuit Against Cape Wind

Scientific Reviews of Impact on Endangered and Threatened Birds Skewed

WASHINGTON -  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), Cetacean Society International, 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.

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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