A federal court has rejected a Nantucket group’s claim that regulators didn’t follow the Endangered Species Act and other environmental law when reviewing the Vineyard Wind offshore wind energy farm.  

In a 36-page opinion Wednesday, a panel of judges with the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals denied the ACK for Whales group claim, which sought to halt the project currently being constructed about 14 miles to the Vineyard’s south. It is just the latest in a slew of lawsuits that have not gained traction against the wind farm, one of the first commercial-scale projects to be built in the country. 

The Nantucket group, formerly known as Nantucket Residents Against Turbines, asserted that the project was endangering the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale and the National Marine Fisheries Service was relying on defective data to make decisions. 

The U.S. District Court in Boston rejected the claims in May 2023, prompting the group to turn to the federal appeals court. 

But the higher court wasn’t swayed. 

“[National Marine Fisheries Service and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management] followed the law in analyzing the right whale’s current status and environmental baseline, the likely effects of the Vineyard Wind project on the right whale, and the efficacy of measures to mitigate those effects,” the appeals court panel wrote in its decision. “Moreover, the agencies’ analyses rationally support their conclusion that Vineyard Wind will not likely jeopardize the continued existence of the right whale.” 

Vineyard Wind is in the process of building 62 turbines, as well as an operations headquarters in Vineyard Haven. The turbines have drawn some critics over their presence along the horizon or their potential harm to marine life.

On Nantucket, ACK for Whales will continue to push against the project via two articles on the May town meeting warrant. The articles call for the town to pull out of its standing “Good Neighbor Agreement” with Vineyard Wind and require all offshore wind decisions at the town level be authorized by town meeting.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency charged with protecting the whales, has spoken out about the offshore construction and recent whale deaths, including one on the Vineyard earlier this year. 

“At this point, there is no scientific evidence that noise resulting from offshore wind site characterization surveys could potentially cause whale deaths,” the agency said. “There are no known links between large whale deaths and ongoing offshore wind activities.”