“It is time we examine the process,” said Congressman Jeff Van Drew, a Republican from New Jersey, at a public hearing on whale deaths and wind power last week according to the news outlet National Fisherman.
New Jersey has a goal of 11GW of offshore wind capacity operational by 2040, the most aggressive state goal in the US.
Anti-offshore wind politicians and citizen groups are continuing to press for government scrutiny of dead whales off the US East Coast. They blame offshore-wind surveying and construction activity.
The American Clean Power Association (ACP) has hit back, citing "long-time opponents to offshore wind and irresponsible news outlets who have blamed these deaths on the offshore wind industry without any evidence.”
Since December, 29 whales have died off the coast of New Jersey and New York. Climate change may be moving their food closer to the shore, where there are vessels, a federal government official has said.
Necropsies have found that ships or fishing gear were the cause of nearly half the deaths, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Fisheries Service has said. The remainder are uncounted for.
Van Drew along with fellow Republican congressman Christopher Smith, Andy Harris and Scott Perry have now called for hearings in Congress, a government probe into the federal environmental review of offshore wind projects and a moratorium of wind development.
'BOEM not at the helm'
At the same public meeting, Meghan Lapp - fisheries liaison at Seafreeze Ltd, a subsidiary of European conglomerate Grupo Profand - called offshore wind the “single biggest threat” to fishing.
She said: “BOEM [US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management] has refused to de-conflict wind energy areas before permitting. No one in the US government is at the helm of this process,” adding that this was a “textbook case of regulatory capture”.
A BOEM spokesperson emphasised that no whale deaths had been attributed to offshore wind activity and that any surveys for wind farms were carried out in the presence of "ndependent protected species observers". Survey teams were also required to establish an an “acoustic exclusion zone” which was "clear of any marine mammals and sea turtles for a certain amount of time before acoustic sound sources can operate".
BOEM said its renewable energy program for offshore wind had worked hard to minimise impacts to other ocaen users from the start and regularly consulted with representatives of the fishing industry to "to identify areas that may pose the least amount of conflict".
A spokesperson continued: "We use the best available data where fisheries-related activities occur to inform our decision making...After leases are issued and plans are in development, BOEM continues to obtain feedback and conduct scientific research on how best to avoid, minimize, or mitigate impacts to other uses whenever possible."