Wind power opponents filed a long-expected court challenge to the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, in a bid to stop Dominion Energy’s planned start of construction May 1.

The lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is focused on claims that construction and operation of the planned 2.6-gigawatt-rated turbine array will harm the already extremely endangered North Atlantic right whale population, now estimated at only around 350 animals and already at risk from ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement.

 The Heartland Institute, Center for a Constructive Tomorrow and the National Legal and Policy Center, groups with ties to conservative, libertarian and oil and gas energy interests, are at the top of the complaint filed in federal court. 

Heartland and allies have already worked to oppose Mid-Atlantic wind power development off the Delmarva coast, citing potential impact on commercial fishing, Ocean City, Md.’s tourism economy and interference with Navy and military aviation operations offshore.

The focus on right whales is a new tack, also taken by offshore wind opponents in New England. As the National Marine Fisheries Service has brought more pressure to bear on protecting right whales from fishing gear entanglements and vessel strikes, the Heartland-led lawsuit argues that NMFS and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management are failing to consider potential cumulative dangers of up to a dozen offshore wind projects now in the federal permitting process.

“This piecemeal, incremental step analysis by BOEM is a textbook violation of the Endangered Species Act,” said Craig Rucker, president of CFACT. “Every court, including the District of Columbia, has held this individual approach to be illegal. Dominion Energy must be prevented from engaging in any offshore construction until the NMFS issues a properly determined Biological Opinion.”

The lawsuit is one more salvo in the ongoing political and cultural war over U.S. energy and climate policy. 

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

The activist groups got a shout-out from Marc Morano, who runs the website Climate Depot disputing climates scientists’ reports about escalating global temperature trends.

“I am grateful that CFACT has stepped forward and filed a suit with such an obvious likelihood of success in halting the construction of these offshore wind monstrosities,” said Morano. “This is nothing less than the industrialization of the habitat of the right whale, and the claim that construction of these wind factories will positively impact the climate is ludicrous.”

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Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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