WASHINGTON, Dec. 01, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A coalition of East Coast fishing businesses, organizations, and communities, led by the Fisheries Survival Fund (FSF), has taken the next step in its legal challenge to a planned wind farm off the coast of New York. FSF and its co-plaintiffs argue that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) awarded the lease for the New York Wind Energy Area (NY WEA) to Norwegian energy company Statoil without fully considering the impact on fishermen and other stakeholders, in neglect of its responsibilities as stewards of ocean resources.

The plaintiffs outlined their arguments in a brief filed Tuesday in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. In the brief, FSF criticizes BOEM’s claim that it is not the agency’s job to resolve conflicts among new and pre-existing ocean users in the NY WEA. In an October filing, BOEM wrote that it is “not the ‘government steward of the ‘ocean commons,’’” a claim that FSF calls “unbecoming.” In fact, BOEM’s own website states: “The bureau is responsible for stewardship of U.S. [Outer Continental Shelf] energy and mineral resources, as well as protecting the environment that development of those resources may impact.”

FSF also writes that the NY WEA, an expanse of ocean nearly twice the size of Washington, D.C., is a poor location for a wind farm, and that BOEM and Statoil have alternately claimed that it is both too early and too late to raise objections to the lease. Statoil previously stated that vacating the lease would “squander the resources and the five years that BOEM has expended to date in the leasing process,” even as BOEM promises it will consider measures to mitigate the impacts of a wind farm later in the process. By then, after more time and resources have been expended, a wind farm “will be all but a foregone conclusion,” FSF writes.

Additionally, FSF argues that evaluating alternatives and considering conflicting ocean uses from the start would ultimately benefit BOEM and energy developers, ensuring they do not expend vast resources developing poorly located wind farms. The brief cites the ongoing debacle over the Cape Wind energy project, an approved wind farm off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, as an example of what can go wrong when BOEM and a developer ram through an agreement and become too invested to turn back. After the project “slogged through state and federal courts and agencies for more than a decade,” delays and uncertainty have jeopardized, if not eliminated, Cape Wind’s financing and power purchase agreements, according to the brief.

The plaintiffs in this case are the Fisheries Survival Fund; the Borough of Barnegat Light, New Jersey; The Town Dock; Seafreeze Shoreside; Sea Fresh USA; Rhode Island Fishermen’s Alliance; Garden State Seafood Association; Long Island Commercial Fishing Association; the Town of Narragansett, Rhode Island; the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce; the City of New Bedford, Massachusetts; and the Fishermen’s Dock Co-Operative of Point Pleasant, New Jersey.

While the fishing groups hold wide-ranging views about offshore wind energy development, they all agree that the siting process for massive wind energy projects “should not be a land rush, but rather reasoned, fully informed, intelligent, and cognizant of the human environment,” according to the brief.

About the Fisheries Survival Fund

The Fisheries Survival Fund (FSF) was established in 1998 to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Atlantic sea scallop fishery. FSF participants include the vast majority of full-time Atlantic scallop fishermen from Maine to Virginia. FSF works with academic institutions and independent scientific experts to foster cooperative research and to help sustain this fully rebuilt fishery. FSF also works with the federal government to ensure that the fishery is responsibly managed.

Attachments:

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/b922c6eb-8e94-46a0-b80e-8cad215b1a35

Andrew Minkiewicz
Fisheries Survival Fund
(202) 342-8474
aminkiewicz@kelleydrye.com

David Frulla
Fisheries Survival Fund
(202) 342-8648
dfrulla@kelleydrye.com