Right-wing groups sue US over offshore wind impact on whales

By Thomson Reuters Mar 18, 2024 | 2:09 PM

(Reuters) – Three right-wing groups sued the Biden administration on Monday over its approval of a wind project off the coast of Virginia, alleging it failed to consider the facility’s impacts on endangered whales.

The federal lawsuit filed by the Heartland Institute, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and National Legal and Policy Center seeks to stop the construction of Dominion Energy Inc’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project pending a new federal analysis of risks to the North Atlantic right whale by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Developing offshore wind power is a major part of President Joe Biden’s strategy to decarbonize the U.S. power sector to fight climate change. Both Heartland Institute and CFACT have rejected the mainstream science showing that climate change is driven by human use of fossil fuels. They have also criticized offshore wind as expensive and unreliable.

The groups’ lawsuit alleges that the NMFS analysis, known as a biological opinion, did not adequately consider the combined impacts of all the offshore wind projects planned along the Atlantic coast on the right whale population.

“This erroneous biological opinion issued by NMFS is a classic example of abdication of its duty to provide meaningful protection for an endangered species,” Heartland Institute President James Taylor said in a statement.

“Playing politics with such an iconic species as the right whale is a truly pathetic example of the Biden administration’s allegiance to climate alarmism.”

Dominion’s project will have 176 turbines located 27 miles (43.45 km) off the coast of Virginia Beach. Construction is expected to start this year and, once built, it will generate enough electricity to power 660,000 homes.

Officials from NMFS and the Interior Department, which are among the seven federal defendants named in the suit, would not comment. Earlier this year, the Biden administration released a strategy to protect right whales while supporting its offshore wind goals.

Dominion said the lawsuit had no merit.

“The overwhelming consensus of federal agencies and scientific organizations is that offshore wind does not adversely impact marine life. We’ve put in place strong environmental protections for this project, and are confident the North Atlantic right whale will be protected,” the company said in a statement.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

(Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Barbara Lewis)