Bird Conservation Groups File Lawsuit over Icebreaker Wind

Two US bird conservation groups have filed a lawsuit in a federal court over the proposed Icebreaker Wind offshore wind project in Lake Erie, Ohio.

The Icebreaker offshore wind project will comprise six MHI Vestas turbines with a nameplate capacity rating of 3.45MW located some 10 miles offshore Cleveland. Construction could start by 2021, and once commissioned, the 20.7MW project would be the first fresh-water wind energy installation in North America.

The project received its final Environmental Impact Assesment form the US Department of Energy in October 2018. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) issued a construction permit for the project in March 2019, following a two-year review process.

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) now filed suit against the DOE and USACE for alleged failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Clean Water Act, respectively, during their evaluation of environmental impacts and alternatives associated with the Icebreaker Wind project.

According to the two groups, placing turbines in the proposed site ”would pose substantial collision risks to the enormous numbers of birds that use the area throughout the year….”.

The groups also argue that ”….construction and increased vessel traffic associated with the project could pollute the waters used by these species…”.

The original developer of the Icebreaker Wind project was the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo). In 2016, LEEDCo partnered with Fred. Olsen Renewables (FOR) of Norway. FOR has established FORUSA and Icebreaker Windpower to be the owner, developer, and operator of Icebreaker Wind.

“We regret that legal action is our only recourse,” said Mike Parr, ABC’s President.

“The agencies did not give this project the careful evaluation it requires under applicable environmental laws. In addition, American tax dollars are paying for more than a third of the project cost – but a Norwegian corporation is in partnership with the nonprofit project implementer, LEEDCo. Why are U.S. taxpayer dollars supporting this in the first place? Migratory birds are a common good of the American people. The government has a duty to protect them more than international business interests.”

The complaint seeks to require that the US Department of Energy completes an environmental impact statement and comprehensive cumulative impacts assessment, and that both agencies complete a legally adequate alternatives analysis.

“We need renewable energy development to combat the effects of climate change, but it needs to be done right,” said Joel Merriman, Director of ABC’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy campaign.

“We must ensure that we’re not creating new problems in the process by building turbines in high-risk areas for birds. This precedent-setting project needs to take the proper steps to demonstrate that the benefits outweigh the risks.”

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