By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr.
Long Branch – Monmouth County Commissioner Director Thomas A. Arnone stood at the podium at Seven Presidents Park and called for an immediate moratorium on offshore wind farms and an investigation into the sudden upraise in dolphin and whale deaths along the shoreline.
“Yesterday, my fellow commissioners and I passed a resolution calling for an immediate investigation of offshore projects and marine animal deaths along the New Jersey coastline,” Arnone said. He added that everyone should be aware in regards to the past few months the amount of washed up whales and dolphins compared to years and years of this activity. “There has been an enormous amount of increase in whales and dolphins washing ashore.”
Marine experts have stated that the increase is due in part to boat strikes. Arnone stated that the past three months is the lowest time of year for boating and shipping activity off our coast, and with the busy season fast approaching how many strikes will occur?
In his green energy plan Governor Phil Murphy had the idea of harvesting energy from the wind by creating offshore wind farms. He stated that the objective is to reduce emissions from conventional fuels to stop global warming. According to Travis Fisher and Kevin Dayaratna of The Daily Signal, climate models show that the global temperature reduction would be “infinitesimal” if our state stopped consuming fossil fuels for all electric requirements. They added that knowing this the Governor is asking state residents to foot the $74 billion project to build 3,400 wind turbines that are the size of the Chrysler Building or the Eifel Tower. The entire project would take 2.4 million acres by 2030 and located as far out as 20 miles and as close to the shoreline as nine miles out.
Over the past three months over 30 whales and dolphins have washed ashore, with the latest occurring this past weekend in Sea Bright. “It’s a simple equation here, stop, investigate and then make an educated decision on what and how to proceed,” said Arnone.
The first wind farm, Ocean Wind 1, is currently under construction off the coast of Atlantic City. Many opponents to the wind turbines are saying that the pile drivers smashing the 1,000-foot support poles into the ocean floor is hurting the whales and dolphin’s ability to navigate. Arnone stated that nobody knows if that is true or not, “so let’s investigate.”
Congressman Chris Smith, who is very vocal on any offshore drilling along the New Jersey coast, was also in attendance at the press conference. “Wherever you come down on ocean wind, we need the truth. The Governor and the President hide behind the environmental impact statements that are shoddy, I’ve read two of them thus far and so underwhelmed by their argumentation,”said Smith. The Congressman introduced a bill that would require the U.S. Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the sufficiency of the environmental review process for offshore wind projects. “I asked the watchdog group of the Congress, the GOA to do a comprehensive study into the 11 whales that died off New Jersey beaches and the 11 dolphins that have died. For decades we know that whales and boats live side by side, very seldom do they collide. But recently we see many whales die of boat strikes.”
Smith stated that the first step in creating the ocean wind farms is to use sonar to map the ocean floor. He believes that this might be having an impact on the whales and dolphins. He added that the entire wind project has been fast tracked and is reckless. “Yesterday, a statement was made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and this is only on one of the projects, Ocean Wind 1 down in south Jersey and this is just about 98 of the 3,400 wind turbines. They said, they concluded that the proposed action is likely to have an adversely affect but not likely to jeopardize their continued existence.”
Smith stated that his bill passed on March 30, 2023 by a vote of 244-189. Smith who is a Republican stated that 29 congressional Democrats voted yes, but not one from New Jersey. All nine Democrats from the Garden State voted no. “Like canaries in the coal mines, the recent spate of tragic whale and dolphin deaths and a well-founded suspicion that geophysical surveys, including the use of sonar may be a contributing cause, has brought a new light and increased scrutiny to fast-tracking of 3,400 offshore wind turbines,” said Smith.
Smith also said that the government scientist who oppose wind farms are pressured into approving it or face the possibility of losing their job. That’s why he along with the Republican state representatives who were at the press conference and the Monmouth County commissioners are asking for an independent study into the recent rise in whale and dolphin deaths.
Arnone was asked who will make the final decision on the moratorium, and he replied the Governor. When asked if he has spoken to the Governor, he replied I’ll let you know in an hour as I expect to hear something.
Governor Murphy has been on the record several times saying he does not intend to implement a moratorium on offshore wind farms. He has also said that the discourse around wind turbines causing the deaths of massive marine mammals is “disinformation.”
“Listen, nobody knows if it has an effect or not, that is why we are asking for an investigation. It’s simple, stop, investigate and make an educated decision. We will not stop until it stops, and that’s our goal until we find out if there is a collation between the turbines and the deaths,” said Arnone.