VAN DREW LEADS COLLEAGUES IN LETTER TO BIDEN OFFICIALS DEMANDING ANSWERS ON OFFSHORE WIND DEVELOPMENT
March 14, 2023 — Rep. Van Drew (R-NJ) was joined by Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME), Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) in sending a bipartisan letter to the Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator, Richard Spinrad, and the Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), Liz Klein, inquiring an internal agency response to a May 2022 letter from a NOAA scientist warning of offshore wind development’s likely impacts on marine species.
“There have been more than twenty whale deaths in just the past three months, an unprecedented number, yet this administration does not bat an eye,” said Rep. Van Drew. “Despite calls for investigations as to why endangered whales keep washing up on our shores, this administration instead has decided to expand offshore wind development, allocating $60 million for projects in President Biden’s budget proposal.
“A NOAA scientist sent out a warning almost a year ago sounding the alarms on the long-term impacts offshore wind could have on the endangered North Atlantic right whale, yet there have been zero changes made to the development process. We need answers – why is this administration ignoring warnings from their own scientists? This administration cannot keep hiding behind the justification of combatting climate change when there are already signs of severe impacts to our environment as well as warnings of decades-long impacts to sensitive marine life,” added Rep. Van Drew.
“Despite over 18 whale deaths on the East Coast in the matter of a few short months, all Congressional inquiries have been met with no answers and only platitudes by the Biden Administration. This comes as reports show that even the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sent a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) back in May of 2022 questioning the adjacency of offshore wind energy leases to the endangered North Atlantic right whales. Today my fellow Congressional colleagues and I sent a letter to BOEM and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary, Gina Raimondo, seeking answers as to whether BOEM, or any other agency issued a response to the May 2022 letter and if that letter led to any changes in policy regarding how and where offshore wind is leased. The May 2022 letter clearly suggests a conservation buffer zone of 20 km to reduce risk to right whales. If this was not followed, it is ridiculous to keep dismissing the many whale deaths as a result of climate change when warnings were not heeded, and proper investigations were not conducted,” said Rep. Harris.
On May 13, 2022, a letter from NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center was sent to BOEM’s Office of Renewable Energy Programs highlighting concerns that the critically endangered right whale could be adversely affected by offshore wind development. The letter also highlighted concerns of increased risks to not only right whales, but other marine species along the East Coast.
Specifically, the lawmakers asked:
- Did BOEM or any other agency issue a response to the May 2022 letter? If yes, I request you provide a copy of such response.
- Did that letter lead to any changes in policy regarding how and where offshore wind is leased?
- The letter suggests a conservation buffer zone of 20 km to reduce risk to right whales. Was this zone considered when identifying lease areas?
- Several current wind farm leases are well within 20 km of the coastline. How do you plan to mitigate the anticipated harm posed to right whales by the offshore wind turbine impacts that this letter identifies?
Full text of the letter can be viewed here.