A coalition of stakeholders led by Cape May County, New Jersey, filed a federal lawsuit against the Biden administration Tuesday, challenging the development of a massive offshore wind farm along the county’s coastline.
The lawsuit – which names the Interior Department and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, among other federal officials and agencies, as defendants – argues that the federal government abandoned its obligations to protect the environment “in favor of an inappropriate collusion with Big Wind interests.” Plaintiffs specifically challenge the approval of Ocean Wind 1, an offshore wind project being developed by Danish energy company Orsted.
“As we’ve said many times, we spent the better part of two years trying to negotiate with Orsted to redesign this project in a way that would cause less damage to the environment and less damage to our tourism and fisheries interests,” said Cape May County Board of Commissioners Director Len Desiderio. “Our reasonable proposals fell on deaf ears as state and federal regulators rubber-stamped permits to rush the Ocean Wind 1 project to approval.”
“We believe the federal permitting process was fatally flawed and we have assembled a great legal team to pursue these issues in the federal courts,” Desiderio continued. “There is far too much at stake to do nothing. This suit brings together important stakeholders in Cape May County willing to fight to protect our economy, our environment and our future.”
In addition to the county, plaintiffs include Cape May County Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Wildwood Hotel Motel Association, Clean Ocean Action, the Garden State Seafood Association and local seafood businesses.
According to the lawsuit, the federal government is approving offshore wind projects like Ocean Wind 1 too quickly without properly considering the economic and environmental harm they may pose. The plaintiffs request in their suit that the court put a hold on Orsted’s permits and force relevant agencies to “fix the flawed processes that were utilized to ignore important environmental, marine species, economic and historic resource protections.”
“Two things have been conclusively established so far,” added Michael Donohue, Cape May County’s special counsel for offshore wind. “First, these are nonpartisan issues, with leading voices on both sides of the aisle in New Jersey and throughout the country now voicing the same concerns about the negative impacts of offshore wind projects that Cape May County has been raising for the past two years.”
“Second, constructing this project and all of the other proposed offshore wind projects, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, will have no positive impact on climate change or reducing global warming,” he said.
The Ocean Wind 1 project was first proposed years ago after the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management awarded wind energy development leases in 2015 during the Obama administration. In March 2021, the agency initiated the permitting process for the project, leading to formal approval in July. It then approved Orsted’s construction and operations plan last month.
Orsted’s Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2 projects together would consist of nearly 200 wind turbines across 161,000 acres in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape May County. According to the county, the turbines would be as close as nine miles from its coastline and would be visible from every beach in its jurisdiction.
The project would also have two transmission line corridors with one substation in Cape May County. Ocean Wind 1 is expected to enter operations by 2025 while Ocean Wind 2 would be operational years later.
The county previously said it has engaged with Orsted since 2021, but those negotiations ultimately fell through after the company turned to state and federal officials who were supportive of the development.
The county has also argued the wind project would have little to no positive impact on climate change, lead to a 15% decline in tourism, which translates to a billion-dollar loss for the local economy, and harm marine wildlife. In May, the Cape May County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in a unanimous vote to oppose the Ocean Wind project.
“We are aware Cape May County has issued a resolution,” Tom Suthard, Orsted’s New Jersey stakeholder relations manager, told Fox News Digital at the time. “The content of the resolution doesn’t change our willingness or desire to collaborate with local elected officials and stakeholders throughout the state.”
“Building upon discussions from the beginning stages of Ocean Wind 1’s development, Orsted will continue outreach with communities and county leaders,” he added. “We are committed to delivering a project that advances New Jersey’s renewable energy goals while creating jobs and economic opportunities that further the state’s leadership position of offshore wind development.”
Cape May County is New Jersey’s southernmost county, consists of 16 separate jurisdictions and has a population of about 95,000 residents.
The Department of the Interior didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.