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CFACT blasts offshore wind multiple-site assessment as ridiculous

CFACT has long called for an environmental assessment of the combined impact of the clusters of huge offshore wind facilities being pushed by the Feds. Each facility is being separately assessed even when they share a boundary.

In many cases, it is clear that the adverse impacts will overlap and compound the harm to marine life. An obvious example is the incredibly loud and potentially harmful noise of pile driving. This noise carries over fifty miles, so if two sites are pile driving within a few miles of each other, the noise has to be much worse when the impacts combine.

The Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is supposed to do environmental assessment of offshore wind (even though their mandate is to get it built). They finally produced a combined assessment for six facilities off of New York and New Jersey. It is grandly called a Programmatic Environmental Impact Assessment (PEIS) of the New York Bight.

CFACT’s official comments on this assessment are pretty clear: it is junk. Here are some telling excerpts:

“Most of the 800 or so pages are nothing more than an academic discussion of the general environment, the sorts of impacts that might or might not occur, and what might or might not be done about them. There is basically nothing about this specific combination of projects.”

“In short, the academic acoustic case considered in the PEIS tells us absolutely nothing about the potentially huge noise impact of the six projects supposedly being assessed. There is literally no environmental impact assessment here. This vacuum seems to hold for pretty much the entire PEIS, with no real assessment of the six projects. There is certainly nothing of substance on noise.”

“As environmental impact statements go, this one is ridiculous.”

A number of important adverse impacts are not even considered, especially the lifetime operational impacts that go on for decades.

First, there is the combined operational noise of these six big facilities, some of which are actually contiguous. In addition to the endless turbine noise, there is the noise from the fleet of boats servicing these turbines.

Then there is the massive plume of reduced energy air created by the energy-sucking turbines. There is a large scientific literature on the potentially damaging effects of this plume on ocean life, especially reduced productivity in the food chain.

There is also the threat of a deleterious plume of suspended sediments created by air and water turbulence at each turbine tower. This smothering plume also reduces productivity.

I discuss these so-called wake effects in this article.

So the PEIS only looks at construction and basically tells us nothing about the adverse impacts of that. Ridiculous is right.

Note that NOAA shares the blame for this travesty of assessment. They are the experts on the adverse impact of noise on the marine life that they are supposed to protect. For example, the combined adverse effects of all these wind facilities the Feds are rushing into being could exterminate the North Atlantic Right Whale and other endangered critters.

Make no mistake, there is here a clear violation of the National Environmental Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and no doubt other laws. Something must be done.

Read CFACT’s official submission here