The winds of change are blowing.
Conservative activists, environmentalists and New Jersey fishermen protested the construction of wind turbines off the East Coast on Monday, highlighting increasing whale deaths in the region that they say are tied to offshore renewable energy.
The coalition, organized by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, sent out three boats to South Fork Wind Farm, roughly 20 miles from both Martha’s Vineyard and Montauk, NY, holding signs that read “STOP WINDMILLS SAVE WHALES” while shouting through a bullhorn at machinery operators to halt construction.
“Since offshore wind operations began in 2016, there is a disturbing number of whales washing up dead on beaches along the Eastern shores, and it is shocking to see how quickly utilities are willing to rush to construct them,” the group’s president, Craig Rucker, told The Post in a statement. “Their motto is almost like, ‘Damn the Whales, full steam ahead.’”
“In addition, these wind farms could wreak havoc on fishermen and their industry by disrupting the ecosystem from which they derive their livelihood,” he said. “We’re calling attention to all this by going on-site to the location of these destructive monstrosities and urging the operators to cease and desist in their reckless mission to deface our Eastern shores.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2017 declared an “unusual mortality event” for humpback whales found dead on beaches from Maine to Florida.
The agency has recorded 57 large whale strandings since December 1, 2022 on the Atlantic coast. Twelve occurred in New York; nine were discovered in New Jersey.
Activists called the numbers an “alarming” uptick that have coincided with the emergence of several wind power projects.
Opponents believe the deaths are driven by sonar blasting that occurs before wind turbine construction, which may destroy whales’ hearing and disorient them.
The environmental activist group Greenpeace claims sonar testing by the US Navy has the same effect, but has not expressed concerns about offshore wind.
More ships crossing over whale habitats at high speeds may also lead to the marine mammals being fatally struck.
Federal regulators have acknowledged that the noise produced from pile-driving turbines into the ocean floor may also harm aquatic life.
In response, they called for all projects to drive away species through a “soft start” to construction.
The National Marine Fisheries Service also allows developers to potentially injure or kill whales while building wind farms as long as mitigation protocols and reporting procedures are followed.
Meghan Lapp, fisheries liaison for the Rhode Island-base seafood company Seafreeze, told The Post the offshore wind turbines were also disrupting fish habitats.
“The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved South Fork Wind Farm without implementing measures that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated were necessary to prevent adverse population-level impacts to Atlantic cod,” Lapp said. “Instead, BOEM left these as voluntary to the developer if ‘economically feasible.’ There are two sets of federal standards for fisheries — one for fishermen and one for offshore wind companies.”
Whale mortalities have risen consistently since 2016. Neither the NOAA or BOEM has attributed the deaths to wind construction.
In February, the NOAA acknowledged a dead humpback whale that drifted onto a Long Island beach had been accidentally killed by a passing ship.
The protest follows an April advertising campaign by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and the Heartland Institute, which featured a billboard outside Atlantic City of a dead whale washed ashore and a single-propeller plane bearing the message: “SAVE-WHALES-STOP-WINDMILLS.ORG.”
President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act provided tax incentives to several wind farm developers to increase so-called “green” energy production in the US.
More than 3,000 turbines are expected to be built on the East Coast over the next decade, each roughly the size of the Chrysler building in Manhattan.
Earlier this month, New Jersey lawmakers voted to approve tax breaks for another wind power project near Atlantic City.
— The Joe Piscopo Show (@JoePiscopoShow) July 25, 2023