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Legal notice served for alleged violation related to Virginia Offshore Wind Project

Crystal Graham
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A pair of organizations has filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue letter against the Virginia Offshore Wind Project.

The Heartland Institute and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow announced today that they are filing with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the National Marine Fisheries Service the letter for a violation of the Endangered Species Act.

The notice is required by the Endangered Species Act for parties who wish to commence litigation against BOEM. The lawsuit stems from what the two groups say is a failure to provide adequate protection of the North Atlantic right whale and other endangered species.

The North Atlantic right whale is listed as “critically endangered” by governments of both Virginia and the United States. Studies by federal and environmental organizations have found that only about 350 North Atlantic right whales remain in existence.

CFACT and The Heartland Institute assert that the biological opinion issued by the NMFS fails to consider the cumulative impact of the entire East Coast offshore wind program and ignores the “best scientific information available” about the endangered population of the North Atlantic right whale.

According to the groups, the biological opinion found that the VOW would not cause a single death of that species of whale over its 30-year projected lifetime although it did acknowledge the wind project could result in Level B harassment. That level could, according to NMFS, result in indirect death, requiring the need for a “take” permit, which authorizes the “harassment” and potential killing of the North Atlantic right whale.

The 60-day notice letter instructs the federal government agencies to take corrective action to remedy the alleged violations. If no corrective action is taken, the signatories of the letter are allowed to seek relief through the courts.

The most likely venue for this litigation would be the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Earlier this year, more than two dozen large dead whales washed up on the shores of New York, New Jersey and Virginia, directly following 11 offshore sonar mapping activities conducted by wind developers, according to CFACT and The Heartland Institute. These “site characterization” studies use high-powered sonar pulses to determine the proper areas for placing the wind turbines. Sonar mapping has been found to interfere with the hearing capabilities of marine mammals.

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.