NEWARK, D.E. – A coalition of public interest groups – The Heartland Institute, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), and the American Coalition for Ocean Protection (ACOP) – have filed comments with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
In October, BOEM issued a document titled “North Atlantic Right Whale and Offshore Wind Strategy,” which is the agency's proposal to protect the whales – of which only about 300 remain in the North Atlantic – while also allowing a massive offshore wind power project off the East Coast. BOEM says the wind project is compatible with the federal government’s “zero kill” standard for the whales.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) – the sister agency to BOEM – issued an official opinion stating the North Atlantic right whale can only survive as a species if there are zero human-caused fatalities of the whale during any given year.
"The strategy and its approach to advancing offshore wind projects is doomed to failure,” said CFACT President Craig Rucker. “No amount of mitigation ordered by BOEM can assure that this massive wind industrialization envisioned for the East Coast will produce zero human killing of the right whale. The strategy is a pointless exercise and a waste of time and resources. Under these circumstances, it appears that litigation focused on Virginia Wind is inevitable.”
The coalition previously announced that it had retained as counsel the law firm of Gatzke, Dillon, and Ballance to represent it in evaluating the upcoming draft Environmental Impact Statement ((EIS) that BOEM will be producing for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Energy Project, managed and constructed by Dominion Energy of Virginia. The project would put thousands of wind turbines in the migratory path of the North Atlantic right whale.
Among the comments offered by the coalition regarding the BOEM strategy was documentation noting the massive 15-megawatt (MW) turbines proposed for the Virginia project – which would be the largest offshore wind system in the world – would generate noise levels far in excess of the 120-decibel level which National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has determined is the maximum safe operational level for underwater sound.
NOAA research has determined that even 10-MW turbines generate 180 decibels of underwater noise, which exceed the safe limit by 50 percent.
“The operational noise of a project like Virginia Wind could create a 12,000 square mile circle of dangerous noise, which would almost certainly force the right whales out of their historic migration route and into one the busiest shipping lanes in the world," said H. Sterling Burnett, Director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy at The Heartland Institute. “Collision with ships is the greatest human cause of deaths to North Atlantic right whales; pushing the already endangered species into the paths of big ships is almost guaranteed to lead to more whale deaths and perhaps extinction.”
“It is inconceivable that the courts would find projects like Virginia Wind to be compatible with the mandates of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, no matter how hard BOEM tries to dress up the offshore wind program with ‘mitigation measures,’” said ACOP President David Stevenson. “Zero kill means exactly what NMFS says it means. The species cannot withstand the risk of ship strikes and noise harassment inevitably resulting from the offshore wind program and projects like Virginia Wind.”
The coalition previously announced that it had retained as counsel the law firm of Gatzke, Dillon, and Ballance to represent it in evaluating the upcoming draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that BOEM will be producing for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Energy Project, managed and constructed by Dominion Energy of Virginia.
BOEM had previously announced that its “target date” for issuance of the Draft EIS was Aug. 1, 2022, with the Final EIS scheduled for May 1, 2023. In lieu of publishing the Draft EIS for Virginia Wind, BOEM issued the “strategy document,” which outlines a series of investigations and research it will undertake regarding the right whale before moving forward with pending offshore wind developments on the East Coast.
The coalition will continue to follow closely the reports and research produced as a result of the Strategy and will comment on the draft EIS for Virginia Wind when issued by BOEM.
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