NJ GOP seeks wind projects halt to see if whales benefit

May 3, 2023, 12:06 PM

A police officer photographs a dead whale on the beach in Seaside Park N.J. on March 2, 2023. On Ma...

A police officer photographs a dead whale on the beach in Seaside Park N.J. on March 2, 2023. On May 3, 2023, a group of Republican New Jersey lawmakers and opponents of offshore wind called for a 30 to 60-day moratorium on offshore wind site preparation work while a spate of whale deaths on the US East Coast is examined. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

(AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Republican state lawmakers and other New Jersey opponents of offshore wind turbines called Wednesday for a 30- to 60-day moratorium on construction work at such sites to see if it would lead to a decrease in whale deaths.

Four state senators hosted a online hearing about offshore wind energy generation and whale deaths, three weeks after the most recent East Coast whale death was reported and despite the assurances of most scientists and conservationists that there is no correlation.

The two-hour hearing came a week after Democrats, who control the Legislature and the governorship, held a similar hearing and many of New Jersey’s major environmental groups said the greatest danger to whales is climate change, not offshore wind generation.

“I’ve been labeled a climate change denier and a tin-foil hat wearer,” said Jim Hutchinson, managing editor of The Fisherman, a widely read New Jersey publication. “We’re defamed, denied, discarded and disparaged at every step along the way.”

“One thing our side of the aisle gets accused of is not following the science,” said Republican state Sen. Michael Testa. “So what is the harm of waiting 30 or 60 days?”

Since Dec. 1, 32 dead whales have washed ashore between Massachusetts and Florida, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The most recent death came on April 9, when a fin whale washed up on a sandbar in Virginia, according to NOAA spokeswoman Allison Ferreira.

New Jersey has aggressively approved and cleared the way for a nascent offshore wind energy industry, with three offshore wind projects already approved and more being sought.

What began in January as a request by the environmental group Clean Ocean Action for the Biden Administration to temporarily halt offshore wind site preparation work while the deaths are investigated rapidly grew into a politically polarized divide.

“We’ve gone too far, too fast,” Cindy Zipf, the group’s executive director, said of efforts to approve offshore wind in New Jersey. “Over 2.2 million acres is being allocated to offshore wind and 10,000 miles of cables. We became alarmed that it was plausible that activity going on offshore had to do with the whale die-offs. We felt there was a reason for investigation.”

Most of the state’s major environmental groups support the expansion of offshore wind energy generation and have declined to join Clean Ocean Action in its call for a moratorium.

Numerous federal agencies, including the NOAA, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Marine Mammal Commission and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, have said there is no evidence linking offshore wind prep with whale deaths.

Many panelists and witnesses at Wednesday’s online hearing accused the administrations of President Joe Biden and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, both Democrats, of turning a blind eye to concerns about offshore wind in a rush to establish the industry.

“You can’t find evidence if you don’t look for it,” said Trisha DeVoe, a conservation biologist who works with the Miss Belmar Whale Watching business.

“We’re being told, ‘Just accept what we tell you,’” added state Sen. Anthony Bucco.

Meghan Lapp of the Rhode Island-based seafood company Seafreeze, said the turbines will interfere with the radar fishing vessels commonly use, preventing them from operating among the structures, and other panelists said insurers will not cover vessels if they do so.

“Offshore wind is the single greatest existential threat to commercial fishing in the United States right now,” Lapp said.

As Republicans were holding their forum, a group led by former Democratic state Senate President Steve Sweeney held an event touting the economic and employment potential of offshore wind.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., who represents part of the Jersey Shore and who led last week’s Democratic-led forum, said pausing offshore wind projects wouldn’t prevent whale deaths.

“We know that the climate crisis is the biggest threat to marine mammals and their habitats,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “The food source whales depend on is moving closer to the busy shipping lanes near the Port of New York and New Jersey as ocean temperatures rise, leaving them vulnerable to vessel strikes and entanglements.”


Follow Wayne Parry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WayneParryAC

National News

President Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in...

Associated Press

Biden vetoes bill to cancel student debt relief

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would have canceled his plan to forgive student debt. The measure had been pushed by Republicans, but it garnered a handful of Democratic votes in the Senate as well. “It is a shame for working families across the country that lawmakers continue to pursue […]

16 hours ago

Associated Press

Grand jury indicts 2 Bureau of Prisons employees in inmate’s death

PETERSBURG, Va. (AP) — A grand jury has indicted two federal Bureau of Prisons employees for allegedly failing to provide medical care for an inmate in Virginia who had a serious medical emergency and later died, the Justice Department announced Wednesday. Lt. Shronda Covington, 47, and registered nurse Tonya Farley, 52, face charges of allegedly […]

16 hours ago

FILE - Mohamed, a 19-year-old fleeing political persecution in the northwest African country of Mau...

Associated Press

New York City sues 30 counties over ‘xenophobic’ orders banning migrant relocations

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City sued nearly half the state’s counties Wednesday over their attempts to keep out international migrants, the latest escalation in an ongoing battle between city officials and local leaders. The suit, filed in state court Wednesday, accuses at least 30 New York counties of seeking to “wall off their […]

16 hours ago

FILE - This screengrab shows the arrest in Raleigh, N.C., of Darryl Tyree Williams, who died after ...

Associated Press

Autopsy finds North Carolina man died of ‘sudden cardiac arrest’ during police confrontation

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A man who died after police officers in North Carolina’s capital city repeatedly used stun guns on him died from “sudden cardiac arrest” related to cocaine intoxication and the police confrontation, according to the state’s autopsy released on Wednesday. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner also labeled the Jan. 17 […]

16 hours ago

The sun rises over a hazy New York City skyline as seen from Jersey City, N.J., Wednesday, June 7, ...

Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: From NYC’s skyline to Washington DC’s monuments, wildfire haze envelopes familiar sites

As firefighters in Canada battled hundreds of wildfires, the smoke spreading south engulfed New York City, Washington D.C. and beyond in a yellowish haze on Wednesday as people, many wearing masks, passed by familiar landmarks obscured by the smoky fog. The New York City skyline could barely be seen across the Hudson River from New […]

16 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis greets supporters at U.S. Sen. Joni Ern...

Associated Press

DeSantis defends flying migrants to California as he meets with sheriffs near border

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday defended his state’s decision to fly migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border to California, arguing that the state had essentially invited the migrants with its welcoming policies toward immigrants. DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, spoke at a meeting with sheriffs near Arizona’s border with Mexico, […]

16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

NJ GOP seeks wind projects halt to see if whales benefit