WILDWOOD, NJ — House Republicans on Thursday called for halting all offshore wind projects amid a spate of whale deaths off the US East Coast in what was likely the start of an expected investigation by the House of Representatives. controlled by the Republican Party on the clean energy plans of the Biden administration.
Representatives Jeff Van Drew and Christopher Smith of New Jersey; Andy Harris, from Maryland; and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania held a hearing on the Wildwood boardwalk, near where New Jersey has licensed three offshore wind farms, with more to come.
The hearing came as 29 whales have died off the East Coast since December 1.
Opponents of offshore wind, elected officials, most of them Republicans, and various community groups say they believe preparatory work on the ocean floor has been responsible for the whale deaths, despite three federal agencies and a state agency say there is no evidence that the two are related.
Van Drew said that because President Joe Biden, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and offshore wind companies “refuse to share the facts with the American people, Congress must do its job.”
Smith, who represents parts of the Jersey shore, was among those who called for a pause on wind farm preparations until the US Government Accountability Office can investigate the “adequacy of environmental review processes to offshore wind projects.
“Everyone says there is no evidence,” Smith said. “You’re not even looking!”
Harris used the theoretical example of a dog frightened by fireworks running into a stream and drowning. A vet would say the dog’s cause of death was drowning. But Harris said the real cause of death would be the noise that caused him to run into the creek.
And Perry said, “I understand that the administration wants to expedite this. But this is our country, and we are in charge here. Look: the lights are on right now, without these turbines in the ocean.”
Lauren Gaches, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said there is no evidence “to support speculation” that noise resulting from work at the offshore wind site is killing whales, adding that the agency will continue to look into the matter.
About half of the 29 recorded dead whales were determined to have been struck by boats or entangled in fishing gear, the Gaches agency said.
Wind energy and environmental groups not invited to testify at the hearing issued statements in support of offshore wind and denounced the falsehoods that Jason Grumet, executive director of the Clean Energy Association of America, says are being spread. by “former opponents of offshore wind and irresponsible media who have blamed these deaths on the offshore wind industry without any evidence”.
“Disinformation should not dictate policy,” he said. “The evidence is clear: there is no link between offshore wind power and the recent tragic whale strandings.”
Most New Jersey-based environmental groups support offshore wind power and say climate change caused by the continued burning of fossil fuels is the real threat to whales and other marine life.
“Contrary to what Van Drew and others would like you to believe, clean, renewable energy, like wind power in New Jersey, offers an unmissable opportunity to end our reliance on polluters for energy,” Anjuli said. Ramos-Busot, New Jersey director of the Sierra Club. “Our reliance on fossil fuels for energy, not renewables, puts wildlife and coastal communities at risk.”
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection this week joined the growing list of government agencies that have found no link between offshore wind preparation and whale deaths.
“The facts matter, and based on them, there is no reason to conclude that the recent whale mortality in New Jersey can be attributed to activities related to offshore wind,” said Shawn LaTourette, state environmental protection commissioner.
Van Drew cited a recent letter from an Office of Ocean Energy Management scientist to the agency warning of the dangers to whales of offshore wind power.
“This is their own scientist warning BOEM that offshore wind will severely affect the whales, but they went ahead and completely ignored the few people in their group who would tell the truth,” VanDrew said.
Gaches, the spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said her agency and the Office of Ocean Energy Management “recognize that this development must be done responsibly.”
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