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Group files lawsuit to try to block construction of wind farm off Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard

A group of Nantucket residents has filed a federal lawsuit to try to stop the construction of the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind project, 15 miles south of the island resort and Martha’s Vineyard.

In the suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Boston, ACK Residents Against Turbines alleges that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management failed to conduct an adequate environmental review of Vineyard Wind before approving the project in May.

The group also alleges that BOEM, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries failed to ensure that the project would not jeopardize the survival of federally listed species, including the critically endangered, 400 remaining North Atlantic right whales.

“All of Nantucket’s heritage and history revolves around the whale,” Val Oliver, the group’s founder and director, said at a press conference in front of the State House.

Mary Chalke, the group’s co-founder, said the greenlighting of Vineyard Wind will pave the way for the approval of at least five other wind farms along the East Coast, totaling more than 2,000 turbines across 2,000 square miles of ocean.

“We all want renewable energy,” Chalke said. “(But) this represents the transformation and industrialization of a pristine natural environment.”

Andrew Doba of Vineyard Wind and a spokeswoman for the Department of the Interior both declined to comment.

Kate Brogan, a spokeswoman for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, said in an email that it was “reviewing (the lawsuit) carefully.”

The other defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tom Vinson of the American Clean Power Association said: “While we are still reviewing the complaint, it appears this lawsuit is being brought by residents motivated by aesthetic concerns as much as anything alleged in their complaint.”

The project’s 62 wind turbines will generate enough electricity to power approximately 400,000 homes by the time the project is completed in 2023, CEO Lars Pedersen said in May. He also said it will create about 3,600 jobs – half of them permanent, the other half construction jobs.

But some fear the project and others like it that are still in the planning stage, such as Mayflower Wind, 20 miles south of Nantucket, also could irreparably harm Massachusetts fishing and lobstering industries where the turbines will be put.

The Biden administration nevertheless issued final permits for Vineyard Wind in May as part of an aggressive offshore wind and renewable energy agenda.

The lawsuit would be the second to attempt to stop the project.