Fight against offshore wind heads to court as LBI coalition sues federal government

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ENERGY: Beach Haven resident Bob Stern, chairman of the LBI Coalition for Wind Without Impact and Save LBI, said the grassroots organization is fighting to have public comments and concerns heard about two offshore wind projects in New Jersey. (Photo provided)

Earlier this week, Save Long Beach Island Inc., known locally as the LBI Coalition for Wind Without Impact, confirmed plans to sue a branch of the federal government for what it says is non-compliance by the national environmental policy agency. Act and the US Endangered Species Act during its selection process for turbine placement.

The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court, District of Columbia. The Federal Office of Ocean Energy Management, which reports to the Home Office, is the respondent, according to a Jan. 10 update on coalition efforts.

“Our lawsuit concerns BOEM’s most recent adoption of wind power zones in New York Bight, which includes the more remote area of ​​Hudson South,” said Bob Stern, chair of the coalition. “However, our lawsuit also links the EIS (Environmental Impact Assessment) to be carried out for these areas outside the NJ wind power zone (which includes the two offshore projects of LBI and Atlantic City) because the development is “connected” to these outer zones in terms of meeting the state’s energy goals, having common impact zones, electricity markets and timetables, and addressing cumulative impacts. “

Stern, who lives in Beach Haven, is a former director of environmental compliance for the US Department of Energy and a founding member of the organization. The coalition has 900 direct supporters and around 200 others interested in the group’s efforts, Stern said.

The complaint also alleges that BOEM failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act in determining its decisions regarding wind power because it failed to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding the potential impact on endangered marine animals.

“Currently, BOEM conducts limited NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) environmental reviews to support decisions to lease a specific area or approve a specific construction and operation plan,” he said. he said Monday in an email to his supporters. “But they do not conduct any NEPA environmental reviews for their earlier and larger decisions on selecting the largest areas of the ocean – the ‘wind power zones’ – that will be leased for wind turbines versus d ‘other uses. “

Instead, this decision is based on internal analysis of other federal and state agencies, according to Stern.

“It is our claim in the lawsuit that this is the most important environmental decision made by BOEM, and they are required by law to prepare a regional environmental impact statement to support it,” he said, adding if the court agrees, the EIA process will prompt a review of the selection process for previously approved wind power zones.

If this were to happen, according to Stern, “it would allow the public to participate in common sense in the selection of sensitive areas based on clear criteria applied uniformly across coastal communities.”

He said if this had been the case when the New Jersey Wind Power Zone was originally designated, “LBI would not be facing the most visible modern wind project in the world, and a severe impact on the migration corridor. adjacent to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. . “

In addition to its legal action against BOEM, the coalition called on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to reject or delay the Atlantic Shores project and develop a project that complies with the rules for the management of coastal areas in the United States. ‘State. Compliance is necessary for this project to move forward, according to Stern.

“As a result of our comments, the DEP has delayed its review for a year,” he said, adding that the coalition is also reviewing the State Utilities Board’s June 2021 decision to purchase electricity to the Atlantic Shores project.

Stern said the coalition has filed multiple open case requests with the BPU in an attempt to “pull together the information that has been withheld and then determine what future actions we may take.”

– Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

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