Congressional Amendment To Investigate Industrial Wind - The Fisherman

Congressional Amendment To Investigate Industrial Wind

In a 244-189 vote, the House of Representatives passed an amendment offered by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ4) which would require a comprehensive, independent investigation into the environmental review process industrial offshore wind facilities along the Jersey Coast.  The amendment came during consideration of the Lower Energy Costs Act (HR 1) on Capitol Hill.

In a statement, Rep. Smith said his amendment comes in response to the ongoing state and federal plans to install massive wind farms around the nation’s busiest port without adequate study on their impact on the environment, marine mammals, the fishing industry, tourism, navigational safety and more.  Smith’s fellow republican House members from New Jersey, Jeff Van Drew of Dennis Township and Thomas Kean, Jr. of Westfield also voted in favor of the bill.

“The offshore wind industrialization approval process has left unaddressed and unanswered numerous serious questions concerning the potentially harmful environmental impact on marine life and the ecosystems that currently allow all sea creatures great and small to thrive,” Rep. Smith said during House debate on his amendment, noting at least 15 dead whales have washed ashore in New Jersey and New York since December.

“Like canaries in coal mines, the recent spate of tragic whale and dolphin deaths and a well-founded suspicion that geophysical surveys including the use of sonar may be a contributing cause, has brought new light and increased scrutiny to the fast tracking of approximately 3,400 offshore wind turbines covering 2.4 million acres by 2030,” said Rep. Smith.

Specifically, Rep. Smith’s amendment would require the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) – the congressional watchdog – to investigate and report to Congress on the offshore wind projects’ impacts on whales and other marine life, commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, and military use and navigation/vessel traffic, as well as the impacts of hurricanes and other severe weather on offshore wind projects.

As representative to constituents in northern Ocean and southern Monmouth counties, Rep. Smith said the GAO would also be tasked to reveal how federal agencies determine which stakeholders are consulted; whether a timely, comprehensive comment period is provided for local representatives and interested parties; and the estimated cost and who pays for the projects.

“If and when the wind turbines go online, vessel navigation including US Navy ships, merchant ships, fishing boats, and search and rescue operations by the Coast Guard may be significantly hampered due to radar interference,” said Smith, who pointed to a 2022 report that found wind turbine generators “obfuscate the marine vessel radar for both magnetron-based and solid-state radar…” and “can cause significant interference and shadowing that suppress the detection of small contacts…”

“New Jersey’s amazing shore tourism industry is being put at grave risk,” said Rep. Smith, while also adding “With so much at stake – and out of an abundance of caution and concern – a serious, aggressive, and independent analysis on the ocean-altering impact of these projects is absolutely critical.”

While 29 democrats in the House did vote in favor of Rep. Smith’s amendment to HR 1 regarding offshore wind turbines, all nine New Jersey House democrats – Josh Gottheimer, Andy Kim, Robert Menendez, Donald Norcross, Frank Pallone, Bill Pascrell, Donald Payne, Mikie Sherrill and Bonnie Watson-Coleman – all voted no.

“After making significant progress last year, we simply cannot go back,” Rep. Pallone said in a statement opposing the bill, dubbing the Smith proposal, the “Polluters Over People” Act.  “Fortunately, this bill stands no chance at ever becoming law,” Rep. Pallone said.