Home Coalition files lawsuit to stop Dominion Energy’s offshore wind project in Virginia

Coalition files lawsuit to stop Dominion Energy’s offshore wind project in Virginia

Crystal Graham
right whale
(© rm – stock.adobe.com)

A coalition of public interest groups filed a lawsuit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking a preliminary injunction of the approval of a massive wind turbine project off the shore of Virginia.

The intent of the litigation is to stop Dominion Energy’s plans to start construction on May 1.

The lawsuit – which names the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the National Marine Fisheries Service and others – claims the agencies illegally approved Dominion Energy’s offshore wind project by ignoring procedural errors that subjects the endangered North Atlantic right whale to further harm.

The lawsuit aims to force Dominion to cease construction of wind turbines for its Virginia Offshore Wind project in the migratory and feeding waters of the North Atlantic right whale.

The suit claims BOEM’s biological opinion in September 2023 wrongly failed to evaluate the harm which the projects would cause for the right whale.

“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 project consists of 176 wind turbines with blades longer than a football field to be constructed in the open ocean 25 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. If completed, the project would be the largest of its kind in the world.

In issuing its “biological opinion” in September, NMFS only examined the impact that each of these projects individually and in isolation would have on the North Atlantic right whale. The agency did not issue a comprehensive and cumulative analysis examining the combined harm would inflict on the whales during their annual migration path. The courts, including the federal courts of the District of Columbia, have ruled that this approach is illegal, because it misconstrues the language of the Endangered Species Act, according to the coalition.

“I am grateful that CFACT has stepped forward and filed a suit with such an obvious likelihood for success to halt the construction of these offshore wind monstrosities,” said Marc Morano, founder of Climate Depot. “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.”

A successful lawsuit outcome would likely cause Dominion to halt construction on the project until BOEM has developed a new biological opinion providing verifiable protection against potential harm to the North Atlantic right whale caused by these projects.

A total of 55 dead right whales have washed up on the beaches of the East Coast since 2017, causing the federal authorities to declare an “unusual mortality event” and create two areas of critical habitat for the whale – one off the coast of Maine and one off the coast Georgia.

The North Atlantic right whale is a critically endangered species with only about 70 females capable of producing newborn calves.

“This project is not in the interests of Dominion Energy shareholders or customers. It was only approved because Dominion Energy has undue influence on Virginia politics through outsized contributions to both Democrats and Republicans,” said Peter Flaherty, chairman of NLPC. “Because the political process is so tainted, we are pleased to join with CFACT and Heartland to make Dominion accountable through the courts.”

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.