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Cape May County joins calls for hearings on wind energy in wake of whale deaths 

Credit:  Bill Barlow | Feb. 10, 2023 | pressofatlanticcity.com ~~

Leonard Desiderio, the director of the Cape May County Board of Commissioners, said Thursday he will work with U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, on issues surrounding wind farms planned off the coast.

Desiderio cited recent whale deaths and said there were no definitive answers on their cause.

The efforts could include public hearings.

Van Drew has called for a pause on offshore work on wind power projects.

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other marine mammal experts, have said there is no evidence linking the number of whales that have washed up on New York and New Jersey beaches the past two months with the survey work taking place in advance of offshore wind projects.

Many local officials still suggest a connection, and multiple mayors and shore communities have joined calls for a moratorium on offshore work.

Since the very beginning, I have expressed my heartfelt concerns that these offshore wind pr…

Cape May City Council joined the call Tuesday, approving a resolution that cited the whale deaths. The resolution asks state and federal authorities to “determine with confidence” that the offshore surveys were not a contributing factor in the whale deaths before resuming the work.

“When we hear that no one knows why the whales are dying, but we know it is not from the windmill activity, we can’t help but be doubtful,” Desiderio said. “Until there is a definitive answer that the wind farm activities are not killing the whales, we should simply pause until we have that answer. It might mean the differences between more whales dying or not.”

In several incidents, investigations into the individual whale deaths have found evidence the animal was struck by or collided with a vessel.

Ashley Brown, the communications director for Van Drew, said Thursday that Van Drew plans to hold hearings both in his congressional district and in Washington, D.C. More details will be announced soon, she said.

“The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, among others, will be conducting hearings on President Biden’s offshore wind plans,” Van Drew said in a statement.

He was recently named vice chair of that House committee.

Desiderio suggested Van Drew bring a congressional hearing to Cape May County.

“We are not anti-wind or anti-renewable energy, and there may be some positive economic aspects to the project, but before we acquiesce to the negative environmental impacts and watch the installation of windmills that we will see from our beaches for the next 30 years, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Desiderio said.

Both President Joe Biden and Gov. Phil Murphy support the development of offshore wind power, with several projects in the approval process off the coast of New Jersey. Murphy has said the efforts will mean new jobs and a reduction in carbon emissions that come with the use of fossil fuels.

In a statement released Thursday, Desiderio also questioned the withdrawal of PSEG from the Ocean Wind 1 project, in which it held a 25% share.

Danish energy company Ørsted became the sole owner of the project, which is the farthest along in the approval process and expected to be the first to start generating electricity.

The project, starting 15 miles off Ocean City, will include close to 100 wind turbines and power a half-million homes, according to the company.

Desiderio said the county has questions about the impact of the change, including the financial impact.

“Is it still feasible? Are the people of Cape May County being put through all of this only to have the project never happen due to financial problems? These are questions that should be answered right now so that we can all have a sense of where we are headed instead of having to wonder,” Desiderio said.

In announcing an agreement to buy out PSEG in January, Ørsted officials said the company remains committed to the project, and spending $695 million in New Jersey.

“As Ocean Wind 1 continues its planning and development, Ørsted will ensure the project delivers affordable energy to New Jersey, while providing economic opportunity across the state and region. PSEG will support onshore infrastructure construction,” reads the company’s statement at the time.

The acquisition of PSEG’s share is expected to be completed in the first half of this year. The company plans to start generating power from Ocean Wind 1 by the end of 2024, and be fully commissioned in 2025.

Cape May’s resolution cites eight whale deaths in New York and New Jersey, including a juvenile humpback whale that washed up in Strathmere on Dec. 10, two that washed up in Atlantic City on Dec. 23 and Jan. 7, and a Jan. 12 humpback in Brigantine. The most recent incident is from Jan. 30 on New York’s Long Island.

Ocean City has approved a similar resolution, and in January, 12 mayors of shore communities signed a letter calling for a moratorium on wind work.

Ocean Wind has not used sound to map the ocean floor since the summer, company officials have said, but other projects have used the system this winter, including the Atlantic Shores offshore wind project. The system maps the ocean floor from the water’s surface based on how sound reflects off the bottom. Companies have also gathered samples.

NOAA officials and others have said similar systems have been used all over the world, with no indication that whales were harmed by the sound.

See also:  GALLERY: Community heals through Waves of Love: Sea Goddess Healing Arts hosted a Waves of Love event on the Vermont Avenue Beach in Atlantic City to let people’s bodies and souls heal from any pent-up emotions due to the abnormal number of whales washing ashore New Jersey’s coast.

Source:  Bill Barlow | Feb. 10, 2023 | pressofatlanticcity.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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