The primary opposition group fighting the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm has filed another related lawsuit, this time against the Federal Aviation Administration for not turning over documents that were part of a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., alleging that the FAA had yet to provide documents related to the “installation, performance and/or evaluation” of an upgrade to an air traffic radar system in Falmouth as the alliance requested in June 2012.
Despite repeated extensions of the date by which the FAA was to provide the documents, the agency never has, and two out of three agency offices assigned to respond to the request have never even acknowledged receipt of letters sent seeking a final determination on the request, according to the lawsuit.
The alliance is questioning whether the upgrade to the radar system is adequate to address concerns about air traffic controllers being able to track aircraft in the area of Cape Wind, the organization’s president, Audra Parker, said Monday.
“If there’s not an issue then they should be releasing the documents,” she said. “Either way the public has a right to these documents that are really at the core of whether this is a public safety issue.”
The latest lawsuit comes a month after the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. denied a petition by wind farm opponents appealing the FAA’s approval of Cape Wind.
In that decision the Appeals Court found that the circumstances surrounding concerns over the effect of the turbines on aeronautical radar had changed since the same court rejected an earlier “no-hazard” finding by the FAA and that tests of a new radar system had addressed those concerns.
The alliance cites information provided by Mark Cool, a retired air traffic control specialist who is also among the neighbors concerned about health effects caused by the land-based wind turbines in Falmouth, in arguing that the radar upgrade has not solved the problems with potential interference from the proposed wind farm.
In a statement released by the alliance, Cool said that he has spoken with former colleagues at the Falmouth radar facility and that they told him there continue to be problems with the system.
“It is troubling that the FAA would compromise the safety of the flying public for the sake of this project,” Cool said.
An official at the Falmouth radar site referred all questions to FAA headquarters.
In an email FAA spokesman Jim Peters referred questions about the new lawsuit to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Officials with the Justice Department did not return messages and emails seeking comment on Monday.
Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers declined to comment specifically on the latest FAA lawsuit.
“While project opponents are fond (of) filling and announcing litigation, when they challenge Cape Wind approvals they always lose,” he wrote in an email.
In the past, alliance officials have succeeded in lawsuits filed to access public documents that show bias toward Cape Wind at various levels of government, according to the alliance’s prepared statement.
In a complaint filed in January, the alliance, the town of Barnstable and several businesses and individuals sued state officials, Cape Wind and NStar, claiming the project violates the U.S. Constitution.
In addition, there are still several consolidated cases pending in federal court that challenge the approval of the project by the Department of the Interior.
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