In the midst of the pandemic fog, with the local coastal community at risk for a prolonged battle of health, economics and education stressors, the issues of the environment continue to move forward.
Part and parcel of social justice, is environmental justice.
The most recent article on the Skipjack Wind project and the revised Ørsted plan (Coastal Point July 17th ) for the connection to the electrical grid, is alarming. Why the sudden concern for the health of Fenwick wetlands and the reversal on the state park proposal? The intent by DNREC and Orsted was to build and develop (on sensitive wetlands) an industrial park for conversion of the direct current (DC) electrical cable, to land-based alternating current (AC). Even to the casual observer, the area is habitat for species of concern, in close proximity to residential and recreation space.
The article mentioned a Sustainability Report that Ørsted will strive, “To limit the potential adverse impacts that building and operating green energy infrastructure may have on nature and people.” By those metrics, and because the operation of wind farms off the East coast is a new industrial venture, any ocean development must be slow and incremental with constant rigorous studies of environmental adversities. Additionally, as a coastal community in DelMarVa, we must request that any adverse environmental impacts have an equal or greater measure of conservation. This is non-negotiable and must be addressed in any final construction or project design.
The current BOEM lease areas for wind from Virginia to Cape Cod projects 2,066 turbines to be constructed in the next five to 10 years, directly in the known migratory pathways for nearly all categories of marine life. With an insatiable thirst for energy, humans must recognize that such impacts are cumulative; in addition to toxic pollution (ocean outfalls off Rehoboth and South Bethany) marine plastics, overfishing, warming ocean waters and subsequent migration of food prey, how do we continually ask marine and avian species to fatally adapt to our need and greed?
In the past few weeks, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, officially red-listed the North Atlantic right whale, which twice-yearly migrates past Delaware. IUCN is a Geneva, Switzerland-based organization that monitors species worldwide. This label is ominous and portents a high risk of extinction unless drastic measures are implemented. Does the construction of a habitat fragmenter such as a wind farm, subject Ørsted to legal liability for any future decline of this species? In reviewing the supplemental environmental impact statement for (SEIS) prepared by BOEM for a similar project (Vineyard Wind), this specific question and lack of concrete answers portends a logistical quagmire.
The recent meddling of the Trump Administration into the NEPA process and the Endangered Species Act, in an attempt to fast track federal projects, will only subject individual projects such as Skipjack to additional delays for necessary jurisprudence at all levels. As DNREC permits are predicated on federal agency approvals, the entire ecosystem of regulations, collapses into a morass of unsolvable conflicts.
Ardent supporters of wind energy, need to pause and respect the ‘blue carbon’ sequestration of baleen whale species, currently. They are responsible for consumption, fertilization and production for many plankton, phytoplankton and copepod lifecycles. This is one building block for much of the oxygen/carbon equation on this planet. Without such whales, the future is bleak and lonely, empty of human empathy for other creatures, no doubt grander than ourselves.
Gregg W. Rosner
W. Fenwick Island