Saturday, October 1, 2022

Is Virginia Wind Power a Threat to Whales?

Proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project
At WUWT, H Sterling Burnette thinks so, Proposed Virginia Wind Facility Threatens Endangered Whales

North Atlantic Right Whales (NARW) are majestic giants of the seas. They are the subject of documentaries, scientific research and interest, and popular whale-watching tours. All this, and the whales themselves, could be coming to an end soon, and Democrats, including the Biden administration, are to blame.

There are only approximately 300 NARWs alive today. Various federal laws are supposed to protect the whales. The Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, for example, forbid activities that take, seriously harm, or harass the whales or force them out of their critical habitat. If the state of Virginia, Dominion Energy, and the Biden administration have their way, however, NARWs could soon be no more.

North Atlantic Right Whales Habitat

The proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project is directly in the NARWs’ annual migration path. Dominion Energy has applied to erect 176 wind turbines, covering an area of approximately 10 miles by 15 miles—equal to the size of 85,000 football fields or the city of Tampa, Florida—located 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Each turbine will sit atop a monopole extending a minimum of 80 feet into the water and about 120 feet into the ocean floor, and its height above the water will top 620 feet. That’s higher than the Washington Monument, which is 555 feet tall.

Fortunately for the whales, a coalition of public interest groups is working to prevent the Biden administration and Democrats in states along the U.S. east coast from filling huge areas of the open seas with monstrously large, noisy, prohibitively expensive wind turbines. The think tank I work for, The Heartland Institute, and the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and the American Coalition for Ocean Protection (ACOP) have hired the law firm of Gatzke, Dillon and Ballance (GDB) to represent them in evaluating the upcoming draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is producing for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Energy Project which is to be managed and constructed by Dominion Energy.

In a series of articles published by CFACT, David Wojick, Ph.D. has described in detail why the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project is almost certain to cause the extinction of the NARW.

“How to kill whales with offshore wind?” Wojick asks. “Just push them into traffic. The collision deaths would not be directly attributable to the wall of noise created by the OSW project, so who would know?”

Whales are highly sensitive to sound, which they use to navigate. The subsea infrasound and vibrations generated by the turbines are virtually guaranteed to force the few remaining NARWs out of their critical migration routes and into one of the busiest shipping corridors in the world. This will make a bad situation worse: ship collisions are already the largest single cause of NARW mortality. Even if the whales somehow prove able to adapt to and tolerate the sound, the undersea monopoles will pose new navigation hazards for them.

What does Dominion have to say about the threat to protected whales and other species? It’s impossible to tell from its official filings. As Wojick reports, Dominion has hidden the research and data about the project’s possible effect on NARWs.

“Digging into Dominion’s filing with BOEM I found … Dominion has done an actual threat assessment but it is 100% secret!” writes Wojick. “This is outrageous.” The BOEM is one of the agencies that has to review and approve the project.

Wojick notes the BOEM has a separate website devoted to the Costal Virginia Offshore Wind Project, which includes Construction and Operations Plan (COP) documents from Dominion. Even there, on an official government website, it does not state what effects the project might have on ocean life such as the endangered NARW.

The long main report contains 32 technical appendices, including “Appendix R: Threatened and Endangered Species Review.” When Wojick opened Appendix R, however, there was no discussion of the potential effects the project might have on the severely endangered NARW and other threatened and endangered species, nor of what Dominion might do to minimize any adverse impact. Instead, he found a single page stating, “Proprietary and Confidential Business Information Exempt from Public Disclosure.”

“That is all there is to Appendix R. It is 100% secret,” writes Wojick. “Even the number of pages is not disclosed, as it is with the other Appendices, that one can actually read.”

So much for the Biden administration’s supposed commitment to transparency.
Did somebody blame the wrong energy source?



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