🔵More NJ lawmakers demanding a halt to offshore wind farm work

🔵They’re calling for an in-depth investigation of the recent surge in whale deaths

🔵Gov. Phil Murphy calls those concerns misguided

After another dead whale washed ashore between Manasquan and Point Pleasant Beach on Monday, the ninth whale carcass that’s been discovered on a beach along the New Jersey or New York coast since December, more lawmakers have started calling for a moratorium on offshore wind farm activity currently underway in the Atlantic Ocean.

New Jersey state Sen. Vince Polistina, R-Atlantic, has sent Gov. Phil Murphy a letter requesting a 30-day halt on all offshore wind development activity until it can be determined if there's a link between the work and the whale deaths.

“The number of whale deaths along the coast of New Jersey and the entire East Coast is completely unprecedented from anything we have ever seen in our lifetimes,” Polistina said in the letter.

Beached whales in New Jersey and New York in December and January
Beached whales in New Jersey and New York in December and January (Townsquare Media/NOAA)

Why is this happening?

Polistina noted “with the primary difference off our shores being the sonar and drilling related to offshore wind studies, it seems completely irresponsible to blindly continue the work without definitive reasons why so many whales are meeting a tragic end. No one knows whether there is a correlation between the studies and the deaths.”

State Sen. Jim Holzapfel, R-Ocean, is also calling on the governor to put a temporary halt to offshore wind related work.

“Nine dead whales washing ashore in just over 2 months is more than a coincidence, something in our waters is causing whales to die at an alarming rate. Until we can definitively say that the work related to these projects aren’t causing whales to die the governor should put a halt to all offshore wind projects,” Holzapfel said.

Assembly representatives Greg McGuckin and John Catalano, both R-Ocean, released a joint statement saying “a moratorium must be placed on the offshore wind projects until we have a better understanding of why dead whales are washing up on our beaches.”

They note “the use of sonar mapping and other work being done to produces these windfarms are the only factors that we’ve seen change in our waters. It is difficult to believe that they aren’t having some kind of impact on marine wildlife.”

Photo by Nicole Crisp
Photo by Nicole Crisp

Murphy asserts concerns are misguided

Murphy, along with the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, have maintained that suggestions that the whale deaths are in any way linked to plans to construct a giant wind farm out in the ocean are misguided.

New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th District, who called on the Biden administration to suspend offshore wind projects two weeks ago, is upset his request has been ignored.

On Tuesday, Smith noted “the Biden Administration and Governor Murphy continue to ignore the resounding calls for an investigation to address the historic surge of dead whales while offshore wind development ramps up off our beaches, how many more whales have to die before there is a serious and thorough investigation into the cause of these deaths?”

Environmental groups are split on the issue.

Greenpeace's Ocean Director John Hocevar told USA Today the effort to stop offshore wind development is a "cynical disinformation campaign" not based on scientific evidence.

The Ocean Advocacy group Oceana said groups that are opposed to wind power have found a "convenient line of opposition to development."

But the group Clean Ocean Action has stated "this alarming number of deaths is unprecedented in the last half-century. The only unique factor from previous years appears to be the excessive scope, scale, and magnitude of offshore wind powerplant activity in the region."

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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