COURT HOUSE – Just a week after the Danish wind farm developer Ørsted posted a $100 million escrow guarantee that Ocean Wind I would be fully operational by the end of 2025, Cape May County joined with fishing industry and business groups to challenge the federal approval of the project granted in July.
The lawsuit claims the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and National Marine Fisheries Service violated federal laws when they issued their final approval of the Ocean Wind I environmental impact study.
The suit argues that the wind farm turbines will harm endangered species, kill birds, do significant harm to the fishing industries and hurt Cape May County tourism. The plaintiffs seek to invalidate the federal approval for the project.
Ocean Wind I is a centerpiece of Gov. Phil Murphy’s drive to have New Jersey achieve a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2050. It is also an essential element in President Joe Biden’s ambitious goal of achieving 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.
The county’s partners in the litigation are the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce, nonprofit Clean Ocean Action, Garden State Seafood Association, Greater Wildwood Hotel and Motel Association, LaMonica Fine Foods and Surfside Seafood Products.
This litigation is the latest effort to use the courts to reverse decisions by federal and state agencies, including New Jersey approvals granted to wind farm developers by the state Department of Environmental Protection and New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.
The New Jersey litigation comes just as a Massachusetts federal judge denied challenges to federal environmental permits and construction approvals in an Oct. 13 ruling. That litigation, brought by an alliance of commercial fishing companies against the Interior Department and Vineyard Wind I LLC, saw the court rule that BOEM has the ability under the Outer Continental Shelf Land Act to balance the concerns of fishermen with the need for development of offshore wind renewable energy.
The litigation against the Ocean Wind I project may further delay progress by Ørsted after the company already admitted that it is considering pulling out of its offshore wind commitments due to unanticipated financial burdens caused by high inflation and supply chain holdups.
This suit against the federal government is just the latest in a growing list of court filings.
Thus far Ørsted had to sue the county and the municipality of Ocean City in order to gain permits for work on its preferred route for transmission cables from the wind farm to the electric grid.
Groups, including Cape May County, that oppose the wind farm development have challenged the DEP decision that the wind farm is consistent with state coastal development regulations.
An appeal has also been filed by Ocean City and the county to challenge the authority of the NJBPU to overrule local governing bodies on land use decisions.
Two community activist groups, Protect Our Coast NJ and Defend Brigantine Beach, have also sued the state over the decision, backed by narrowly passed legislation, to give Ørsted federal renewable energy tax credits that otherwise would have gone to state ratepayers.
Contact the author, Vince Conti, at firstname.lastname@example.org.