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Trudy Coxe, the former head of Save the Bay and once the top environmental official in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, dropped a bombshell on Wednesday afternoon.
In her role as the head of the Newport Preservation Society (NPS), Coxe announced that her organization has filed a massive federal lawsuit to block the construction the offshore wind project off the coast of Rhode Island.
NPS manages the public-facing mansions in Newport, such as The Breakers and Rosecliff, to name a few.
The Preservation Society filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
According to NPS, “The appeals detail how the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) failed to comply with the heightened levels of review required under the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. BOEM improperly approved wind farms that will damage historic resources within the City of Newport, which is heavily dependent on heritage tourism. Federal law makes clear that the ‘viewsheds’ of historic resources are as important as bricks and mortar. These appeals seek to preserve historic and pristine views from industrial-scale development.”
In addition to her role as head of Save the Bay for 11 years and as Secretary of Environmental Affairs in Massachusetts, Coxe also served at the federal level for two years as Director of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“We support green energy,” said Coxe, the Preservation Society’s CEO. “For two years we pointed out serious problems with the federal permitting process, but BOEM never listened. Green energy projects need not come at the unnecessary loss to our community’s irreplaceable character and sense of place. For more than a century millions of people have visited Newport to walk Cliff Walk, enjoy our beautiful beaches and tour Ocean Drive. These historic resources deserve the due process mandated by federal law.”
On Monday, the federal government issued final approval for the Revolution Wind project.
Governor Dan McKee said in a statement on Revolution Wind, receiving final approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, “This is a significant win for Rhode Island, marking an important milestone in our efforts to advance the state’s clean energy future and grow our already thriving blue economy.”
“Revolution Wind will be essential to advancing the state’s 100% renewable energy standard by 2033 and achieving our Act on Climate objectives. We look forward to seeing offshore construction and installation activity beginning in 2024,” Mckee added.
NPS continued, “BOEM approved almost 200 wind turbines over 800 feet tall – taller than an 80-story skyscraper – as close as 12 miles from Newport’s coast. This is a project of unprecedented industrial scale with six additional wind farms slated for future approval which could add 800 turbines. Newport’s National Historic Landmark districts, including the Bellevue Avenue Historic District, Ocean Drive Historic District and Ochre Point-Cliffs Historic District, as well as Brenton Point State Park and Sachuest National Wildlife Refuge, will see massive wind turbines across the entire horizon. BOEM determined during the permitting review that Newport will experience these adverse effects but failed to eliminate or mitigate them, as required by federal law.”
Cultural Heritage Partners, a law firm specializing in historic preservation and cultural heritage law, represents the Preservation Society in the appeals. “Our federal laws must be enforced as Congress intended and all adverse effects minimized or mitigated as required by law,” said Will Cook, the Preservation Society’s counsel for offshore wind. “In rushing to issue permits for these massive energy development projects, BOEM skipped steps and failed to meet its legal obligations. Our appeals highlight BOEM’s errors and ask that the process be done correctly. The people of Newport County deserve better.”
Representatives of Orsted did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.
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