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Misinformation about dead whales shouldn’t distract us from our need for offshore wind farms

May 15, 2023

By Joris Veldhoven, CEO of Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind

My daughters’ snow boots went untouched, there were no school delays or closures due to snow, and I missed out on building a snowman with them this year.

While some may view this past mild winter as a blessing in disguise, scientists have been raising the flag about the warming of our planet for years. Climate change is here, and it’s disproportionately affecting New Jersey. According to NOAA the 10 warmest years in the 143-year record have all occurred since 2010, with the last nine years (2014–2022) ranking as the nine warmest years on record.

According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) 2020 Scientific Report on Climate Change, New Jersey is warming faster than the rest of the Northeast region and the world.

Climate change doesn’t just warm temperatures, it negatively impacts our health, the ecosystem and the environment around us. The time to accelerate a transition to clean energy is now, and it will require a variety of approaches to get there. Our company is in the thick of this effort, and we’ve seen the role offshore wind can play in shattering the status quo by helping to reduce carbon emissions and catastrophic pollution in the ocean ecosystem.

Yet there are some who are inclined to use misinformation about offshore wind to distract from how vital it is as we bring its benefits to New Jersey and beyond. For example, the recent narrative that offshore wind activities are causing whale strandings is misleading. These sad whale deaths are extremely disturbing, but it is simply inaccurate to point the finger at offshore wind activities when there is no evidence to indicate a correlation (whale deaths started increasing in 2016, years before offshore wind activities were underway), let alone a causal relationship between regular ocean seabed surveys and whale strandings.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Marine Mammal Commission, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have not discovered a shred of evidence connecting ocean wind farms or surveying activities to the harming of whales. And the recent whale deaths that occurred off the coast of New Jersey have in most cases been the result of vessel strikes according to experts.

Let me be very clear; our industry is committed to safeguarding the marine environment and have taken a number of proactive steps, including establishing and monitoring exclusion zones around vessels, developing the newest mitigation technology, and pausing work during migration seasons. Offshore wind vessel activity currently accounts for far less than 1% of the total traffic in the waters of New Jersey, New York and Southern New England.

The smaller, quieter, geophysical surveying and seafloor sound mapping equipment used by offshore wind development is brief, targeted, and commonly used around the world – with no historical injury, stranding, or harassment to marine life having ever been associated, according to NOAA, BOEM, and the Center for Marine Acoustics.

Secondly, stringent federal regulations for vessels conducting offshore wind activities require trained observers and exclusion zones free of marine mammals and sea turtles before using acoustic sound sources.

There are currently seven working offshore wind turbines in the U.S. Europe has more than 5,000. China has thousands, too. Yet none have been associated with the deaths of whales.

Now however, because of misinformation and false claims by some groups, we must defend with fact and science the most viable solution we have to stave off the worst effects of climate change — before it’s too late.

At Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, we share the concerns for our marine life and prioritize the health and safety of all those we share the ocean with; we lead with science to mitigate any potential effects our projects may have on the environment, wildlife, and industries that fuel our local economies; and we value collaboration and coordination with all experts, researchers, neighbors, agencies, and other concerned stakeholders.

For example, for our current project located off the coast of New Jersey between Atlantic City and Barnegat Light, we conducted 35 environmental impact assessments, evaluated existing traffic with the U.S. Coast Guard, and initiated numerous studies on impacts to both commercial and recreational fishing with Rutgers and Stockton universities.

Furthermore, although current research at U.S. offshore wind sites shows electromagnetic field levels are low and safe to marine life, we are using insulated and armored subsea cables, buried, and continuously monitored to remain six feet beneath the sea floor.

We support the Murphy administration’s ambitious target of 100% clean energy by 2035 and are committed to doing our part to help New Jersey in the fight against climate change. Our project will help reduce the state’s net greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 3.9 million tons annually – equivalent to emissions from more than 770,000 cars – as well as protect and invest in the local communities in which our projects are built and create good-paying jobs. Our Project 1 alone will directly create 18,000 new, full-time equivalent jobs, mostly held by unionized professionals.

The future of New Jersey and the quality of life of its residents depend on a swift transition to clean energy, in which offshore wind will play a major role. For now, I keep promising my daughters that maybe next year has some snow days. But we deploy clean renewable power, now. We cannot be sidetracked from this critical work by those making baseless claims to try to stop it.

Joris Veldhoven is the CEO of Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind.

Originally published on Click here to view the full article.

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