Unhappy NJ Congressmen Hold Their Own Offshore Wind Farm Hearing
What was billed as a Congressional field hearing to examine offshore wind industrialization was held in a part of the Wildwoods Convention Center on Thursday.
The event, organized by U.S Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-NJ 2nd District, also included U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ-4th District, and Congressmen Andy Harris from Maryland and Scott Perry from Pennsylvania, as well as a panel of experts who testified about the threat of offshore wind development.
At least three federal agencies have rejected the suggestion the windfarm surveillance activity currently underway off the coast has any connection to the recent increase in whale and dolphin deaths.
Earlier this week the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement they have concluded there is no link between ongoing offshore wind-related construction activities and the increase in marine mammal deaths, and Gov. Phil Murphy has brushed aside calls to temporarily suspend windfarm activity.
The ocean will be vastly transformed
With an audience of several hundred people in attendance, Cindy Zipf, the executive director of Clean Ocean Action, said the wind farm being planned off the Jersey Shore will be massive, covering more than 2 million acres of seafloor with 3,400 turbines requiring 10,000 miles of cable and the project has moved forward without transparency sound science or good governance.
“Marine life is being placed at grave risk without scientific due diligence, monitoring and protection, to ensure the ocean survives this massive industrialization,” she said. “This is too much too fast, and in a word simply reckless.”
She said if the windfarm project moves forward “the ocean and the coast will be vastly transformed and industrialized, and the public would still likely be in the dark if it weren’t for the outrageously grim and tragic number of whale and dolphin deaths.”
She pointed out as windfarm surveillance pre-construction work has increased, ocean noise from the boats doing the work has become louder and more dead whales and dolphins have been washing ashore.
“Why is there such an immediate rejection and defensive response to offshore wind as a plausible cause? There has not been any in-depth federal assessment, just denials.”
The noise will get worse
Also testifying was Bob Stern, the former director of the Office of Environmental Compliance at U.S. Department of Energy, and the current president of the group Save LBI
He noted noise being generated by the windfarm surveillance ships is believed to be disturbing whales so much they are not able to navigate normally and may be colliding more frequently with the propellers of large ships.
He said once the wind farm off the coast of Long Beach Island is built, “the noise from the operation would extend out from shore 93 miles, that’s how significant this gets.”
He said people will be able to hear it
Stern also said people on the LBI shoreline will be able to hear a low-level sound the wind farm turbines out in the ocean, and there will be other problems as well.
“They will be clearly visible, no matter what other diversions you might have heard about being barely visible or rarely visible that is entirely false.”
He added once the turbines power up there will be reduced breeze at the shore because the wind turbines are basically extracting a good part of the energy that normally flows to the shore, and with that, you’re going to see higher local temperatures.”
Other speakers giving testimony included a representative of a frozen seafood company, an official from a Delaware-based think tank committed to protecting individual liberties, a former Superior Court Judge, a finance expert and the owner of a clamming company.
They warn of a whole host of issues
They warned the windfarm project would cost consumers tens of billions of dollars and have a severely negative impact on commercial fishing and tourism.
During his opening remarks, Congressman Van Drew said if offshore wind development moves forward off the coast of New Jersey it will be “the most profound transformation of the Atlantic coast in the history of the United States of America.”
He said local opposition to the project has been ignored and “the truth is that our government is acting more in the interest of the rich and powerful that in the interest of our people, of our Americans.”
The Norwegian turbine company Orsted is building a major section of the Jersey windfarm.
NJ congressmen blast the plan
Van Drew said Orsted had been invited to give testimony and be questioned during the hearing but they declined.
Congressman Smith said the process to review development of offshore wind in the ocean off the Jersey coast has been spotty at best, and multiple issues have not been addressed, including concerns about the vulnerability of the giant turbines during hurricanes and nor’easters.
He also said vessel radar navigation, including Coast Guard search and rescue operations could be compromised by the windfarm.
“We’re looking at vessels colliding,” said Smith.
Many reject criticism of offshore wind
Environmental advocates from the Wind Works Coalition issued multiple statements in response in response to the hearing.
Ed Potosnak, the executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters said “no matter what he says now, Congressmember Jeff Van Drew knows that climate change is the greatest threat to New Jersey, our oceans, communities, habitats, residents, and wildlife. He also knows responsibly developed offshore wind holds the key to powering New Jersey's future without harming the environment. But unfortunately, the man who took an oath to serve New Jersey has chosen to abandon his constituents and flip-flop on important issues in order to align himself with MAGA Republicans and their friends in the fossil fuel industry."
Anjuli Ramos-Busot, the executive director of the Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said “responsible offshore wind power in New Jersey has the potential to jumpstart the state’s just transition to clean energy, and will make a significant difference in mitigating our state’s emissions."
Eileen Murphy, the executive director of NJ Audubon, said the group supports "responsible siting of offshore wind projects."