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June 28, 2010

Suit challenges Salazar Cape Wind decision

Now it's a group of environmentalists and others that is suing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and various of those around him. This time it is the approval of the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound that is being contested.

A coalition of groups filed suit June 25 against federal agencies responsible for approving the proposed offshore wind farm.

According to the complaint "The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement - until recently known as the Minerals Management Service ("MMS") - and Fish and Wildlife Service ("FWS") have violated and are continuing to contravene various provisions of the Endangered Species Act ("ESA"), 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq., by issuing and relying on an unlawful biological opinion for the proposed wind power facility that will allow the project to kill Roseate Terns and Piping Plovers without sufficient safeguards based on the best available science and FWS's own determination of reasonable and prudent measures to minimize take. The Bureau - which this Complaint will continue to refer to as MMS - has contravened and continues to violate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act ("MBTA"),16 U.S.C. 703 et seq., and the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. 706, by authorizing a project that will kill migratory birds without obtaining authorization to do so.

"Further, MMS is violating the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., and the APA, 5 U.S.C. 706, by issuing an Environmental Impact Statement that ignores or fails to take a "hard look" at both alternatives to the lease applicant's proposed project and the numerous ways in which the project will be harmful to wildlife and particularly to Right Whales and migratory birds.

You can download the complaint HERE

As well as Secretary Salazar the suit names as defendants Michael R. Bromwich, Director of what is now the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, and Ronald Gould, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Plaintiffs include Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Cetacean Society International, Lower Laguna Madre Foundation, Californians for Renewable Energy (CARE), Three Bays Preservation and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, as well as Cindy Lowry, Barbara Durkin, and Martha Powers. They are represented by the Washington, D.C. public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

"We are in this lawsuit because science was manipulated and suppressed for political reasons to which the Obama administration turned a blind eye," stated PEER New England Director Kyla Bennett, a biologist and lawyer formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, noting the role of the (now former) Minerals Management Service and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "Condemning rare birds to extinction is not required for offshore wind development."

According to the plaintiffs, in January 2010 an Interior Inspector General report found that the agencies reviewing the project's environmental impact study were unnecessarily rushed in their reviews because of the applicant's desire to complete the environmental review prior to the exodus of the Bush Administration. Moreover, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists protested that the lack of data that made it impossible to adequately assess the project's impacts on birds. The agency then reassigned the lead biologist.

"After years of personally witnessing the destruction of precious coastal habitat to wind industrial complexes, I am disturbed to see the federal agencies entrusted with the protection of our public waters act so recklessly in approving the Cape Wind project," concluded Walt Kittelberger, Chairman of the Lower Laguna Madre Foundation.

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