The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has issued a decision rejecting the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) ruling that the Cape Wind project poses no danger to aviation.
According to an AP report, the court said the FAA ‘misread its regulations,’ so it was not able to make an adequate determination on the hazard the wind turbines would cause.
This latest decision may lead the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to revoke the offshore lease it granted to Cape Wind, a 468 MW offshore wind project proposed for Nantucket Sound, the report says.
However, Mark Rodgers, communications director for Cape Wind, stands by the FAA's original determination of no hazard, saying the FAA should defend its decision.
‘The FAA has reviewed Cape Wind for eight years and repeatedly determined that Cape Wind did not pose a hazard to air navigation," he said in a statement in response to the court ruling. "The essence of today's court ruling is that the FAA needs to better explain its "determination of no hazard.' We are confident that after the FAA does this, that their decision will stand, and we do not foresee any impact on the project's schedule in moving forward.’
Rodgers also cited a letter written in 2008 to the Minerals Management Service (now BOEM) by Dan Wolf, CEO of Cap Air/Nantucket Airlines – the area's the largest air service provider – stating that the project would not be detrimental to air transportation.
"As a pilot with 30 years of flying experience around Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, I wish to state for the record that I agree with the Federal Aviation Administration's findings that the Cape Wind Project proposed for Horseshow Shoals will have no adverse impact on air transportation or navigation in the region," the letter stated.
"We have followed the exhaustive studies and dialog regarding the proposed Cape Wind project these past six years and have grown increasingly comfortable that nothing in the proposal would jeopardize our mission," Wolf added.
The appeal to the district court was brought by the Town of Barnstable and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which claim that the adverse effects of the project include a significant volume of aeronautical operations to change their regular course and/or altitude; changes to existing visual flight rules and instrument flight rule operations; limitations on the capacity and efficiency of airports near the Cape Wind project; and interference with the operation of existing FAA radar facilities.
According to Audra Parker, president and CEO of The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the FAA "acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner" when making its decision of no hazard.
"The FAA has failed to take into account substantial evidence indicating the enormous safety risks to pilots and passengers in the 400,000 flights per year that fly over Nantucket Sound," she said in a statement.
The Cape Wind project now awaits action from the FAA on whether or not the original decision will stand, according to Rodgers, who is confident the project will proceed.