On Halloween, the industrial wind developers at Ørsted made the stunning announcement that they were ceasing development of the Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2 projects at the Jersey Shore. The Danish corporation cited macroeconomic factors, high inflation, rising interest rates and supply chain bottlenecks in their decision to walk away from industrializing those two lease areas, leaving Atlantic Shores and Community Wind as the next companies up for planned ocean development.
I’ve done a lot of research into the impacts of industrial offshore wind on our coastal fisheries, publishing studies both online and in print starting with “Myth or Matter: Is Offshore Wind Blowing in Too Fast?” from the December, 2019 edition of The Fisherman. One specific study (McCann, 2012) that I referenced found that flounder species show increasing avoidance behaviors around electromagnetic fields (EMF) from undersea power cables “as their catches decreased around charged cables in Denmark.”
In a follow-up Zoom discussion with Ørsted, I’d inquired of their fisheries scientist about those Danish findings and whether anglers should be worried about fluke migration. “I think it’s a credible concern,” said Ørsted’s Gregory DeCelles. Soon after, researchers led by staff from NOAA Fisheries released a peer-reviewed report called Fisheries and Offshore Wind Interactions: Synthesis of Science acknowledging “any impacts of EMF to the availability of species may result in negative socioeconomic impacts to the fishing industry.”
NOAA Fisheries went on to admit in the Synthesis of Science report that fisheries survey programs and assessments would also be disrupted by industrial offshore wind development, resulting in “serious adverse impacts on U.S. fisheries stakeholders.” NOAA Fisheries stated quite explicitly, “these impacts will lead to greater uncertainty in abundance estimates, which will likely lead to lower fishery quotas and lost revenue to commercial and recreational fishermen.”
Those who’ve read the scientific reports and continued pushing for answers have been labeled kooks and extremists because we’ve questioned Ørsted’s credibility in addressing these concerns. Yet following the October 31st bombshell, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy flipped his wig saying, “Today’s decision by Ørsted to abandon its commitments to New Jersey is outrageous and calls into question the company’s credibility and competence.” Many folks wonder if that “credibility” attack on the Danes now makes Governor Murphy a climate change denying, tinfoil cap wearing, oil industry shill as well!
That’s not to say that Ørsted is done with their work either. Some type of construction continues unabated at Island Beach State Park; while many have claimed it’s simply sewer work, my inquiries to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) as to what’s actually going on there under cover of dark went unanswered for weeks. In early November I decided to go directly to NJDEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette’s Instagram account (@shawnlatur) under a post he made at High Point State Park, inquiring as to whether he’d be looking to cover that 15,000-acre park with wind turbines. It wasn’t long before my post was deleted, leaving me to wonder how often the NJDEP czar deletes social media comments he doesn’t like.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), when public officials use social media as government actors, the First Amendment prohibits them from censoring differing viewpoints. “This means they can’t block users, delete specific comments, or restrict access in other ways on the basis of the viewpoints expressed,” the ACLU stated.
It shouldn’t matter if you’re a republican, democrat, libertarian or middle-of-the-road independent, an open and transparent government is a nonpartisan ideal that all Americans should be fighting to preserve and protect. NJDEP Commissioner LaTourette apparently needs a not-so-subtle reminder of that basic constitutional tenet.
Just prior to print, NJDEP Press Officer Larry Hajna said none of the ongoing work at Island Beach State Park is related to Ørsted in any way, and described the new structure at the Swimming Area in Island Beach as a sewage pumping station.