The Biden administration is pushing full steam ahead to massively expand offshore wind development across millions of acres of federal waters, actions that critics warn would have dire ecological and economic impacts.
Days after taking office, President Biden issued an executive action ordering his administration to expand opportunities for the offshore wind industry as part of his aggressive climate agenda to curb greenhouse gas emissions and stop global warming. Months later, he outlined goals to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, the most ambitious goal of its kind worldwide.
“Two years ago, President Biden issued a bold challenge to move America towards a clean energy future,” Deb Haaland, the secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI), said earlier this month. “The Interior Department answered that call and is moving rapidly to create a robust and sustainable clean energy economy with good-paying union jobs.”
In May 2021, the DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approved the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind project 12 miles off the coast of Massachusetts, marking the first ever large-scale offshore wind approval. Then, in November 2021, the agency approved the 130-megawatt Southfork Wind project off the coast of Long Island, New York, the second commercial-scale offshore project.
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A number of other proposed offshore wind projects along the Atlantic coast are under development and in the federal permitting stage. The Biden administration has leased hundreds of thousands of acres to energy corporations and plans future lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of California.
“This is an environmental wrecking ball,” David Stevenson, the president of the American Coalition for Ocean Protection (ACOP), told Fox News Digital in an interview. “It’s an economic disaster. From an environmental — from a climate change standpoint, it’s also useless.”
“It is going to turn the oceans into an industrial park, particularly at night when you’ve got red flashing lights. It’s going to look like the industrial area in northern New Jersey,” added Stevenson, who founded ACOP to mount legal defenses in response to offshore wind development on behalf of local shoreline communities.
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Stevenson and other opponents of large-scale offshore wind development have noted that BOEM has acknowledged the negative impacts of the proposals it has approved.
According to a report ACOP published in February, BOEM has stated that wind turbine structures will lead to radar interference, increasing likelihood of vessel collisions and complicating search-and-rescue missions; likely harm wildlife; industrialize ocean views, possibly harming tourism industries; impede key military operations; and impair oceanic scientific research.
BOEM has admitted that the commercial fishing industry would shoulder millions of dollars in economic damages.
“While Vineyard Wind is not authorized to prevent free access to the entire wind development area, due to the placement of the turbines it is likely that the entire 75,614 acre area will be abandoned by commercial fisheries due to difficulties with navigation,” BOEM stated in its May 10, 2021, record of decision green-lighting the Vineyard Wind project, for example.
“The extent of impact to commercial fisheries and loss of economic income is estimated to total $14 million over the expected 30-year lifetime of the Project,” it continued.
In another example, BOEM’s environmental impact analysis published last summer for Ocean Wind 1 — a 1,100-megawatt project proposed off the southern New Jersey coast — the agency concluded that impacts on commercial fisheries, navigation and views would all be “major.”
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“This is the industrialization of our oceans,” Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, told Fox News Digital.
“This is creating a construction zone, pile-driving a 4,000-kilojoule hammer that’s about 30 to 40 feet wide, pounding giant steel, thousand-foot poles into the ocean floor and then jet-plowing, which is liquefying the ocean floor up to 10 or 12 feet, and laying giant 100,000-volt cables in the ocean floor and then turning on the switch and seeing what happens,” she continued.
“I mean, that’s a problem,” Brady said. “These are areas of extreme productivity for not just fish, but marine mammals.”
Brady’s Long Island Commercial Fishing Association is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit led by the Rhode Island-based fishing company Seafreeze challenging the Biden administration’s approval of Vineyard Wind. An attorney representing plaintiffs said the project was an example of the administration’s “stubborn pursuit of increasing renewable energy generation regardless of who it hurts.”
According to Brady, the federal wind lease area off the shores of Massachusetts and Rhode Island is larger than Rhode Island, Long Island and much of the 1,902-square-mile Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. And offshore wind turbines are massive, nearly three times the height of the Statue of Liberty.
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“Imagine that we’re all standing on that beautiful [Grand Canyon] vista and there’s a turbine a mile apart in every single direction, a thousand feet tall,” Brady said. “There you go, that’s your picture. And that’s going to be the picture all up and down every single coastline.”
Overall, the Biden administration’s rapid development of offshore wind has faced resistance from environmental groups, fishing industry groups, federally-established fishery councils, small business organizations, local officials, lawmakers and, most recently, the Department of Defense.
Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J., who represents New Jersey’s southern coastline, including Atlantic City, has criticized the White House over the last several months for looking the other way at wildlife impacts of offshore wind projects.
“In Joe Biden’s mad rush to a net zero energy economy, federal agencies responsible for the implementation of offshore wind have hastily pushed forward these projects with little regard to industries like fishing and maritime transports, ignored the concerns of coastal communities who rely on the ocean for jobs and tourism, ignored the national security concerns raised by our own military, and have been negligent in properly studying the harmful impacts these turbines will have on our environment,” Van Drew told Fox News Digital.
“And despite these concerns and warnings from communities, stakeholders, and members of Congress, this administration pushes it aside with the sole excuse being that the industrialization of our oceans will save the planet by ‘stopping climate change,’” he continued.
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Since the beginning of the year, more than 20 humpback whales and endangered North Atlantic right whales have been discovered dead along the East Coast, with most beaching in New Jersey, New York and Virginia, according to federal data. The uptick in whale deaths has led to calls from lawmakers, local officials and conservation organizations for a federal moratorium on wind development in the Atlantic Ocean.
While administration officials and some environmental groups have said there is no evidence suggesting that wind turbine construction is killing whales and that the deaths are part of an “unusual mortality event” for both whale species dating back years, the region is on pace to far surpass death figures set since the mortality events were declared.
“The agencies admit it themselves in their environmental impact statements that offshore wind will increase impacts on climate change unless it completely replaces the fossil fuel industry,” Van Drew said. “That’s their goal — to make America completely reliant on an unreliable renewable energy source. And that’s the crux of this situation.”
“These industrial wind grids are money grabs for major corporations and legacy builders for politicians,” he added. “To replace fossil fuels, they will need to lease millions upon millions of acres of our oceans and lakes to generate the power we are already producing.”
“Think about it: a wall of turbines lining our horizons for decades to come, generating more expensive energy for homes and businesses, killing sea life, destroying generational industries.”
Van Drew noted that wind turbine technology is mainly manufactured overseas and that, over the long-term, offshore wind projects will create a few dozen permanent jobs.
“The warnings are clear, and our president and our government need to listen and act before it is too late.”
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