‘With dozens of dead whales and dolphins washing up … now is a particularly unsuitable time for NOAA to authorize the harassment or injury of right whales and other endangered species.’
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL (May 2, 2023) – The Save the Whale Coalition – consisting of The Heartland Institute, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), and the American Coalition for Ocean Protection (ACOP) sent a letter today to the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), warning them not to authorize the harassment of whales requested by Dominion Energy of Virginia.
Dominion Energy recently submitted a “Request for Rulemaking and Letter of Authorization for Taking of Marine Mammals” as dead whales have been increasingly washing ashore along the Atlantic Coast. The Save the Whale Coalition says that NOAA granting Dominion’s request would prompt litigation to stop it.
Dominion’s request, issued in August, asks NOAA for permission to begin construction of “all offshore project components,” including turbines, monopiles, substations, and underwater cables “no later than March 4, 2024 and to extend for five years.” The company also requests the “unintentional (but not unexpected) taking of protected species,” including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which only around 300 remain.
The Coalition notes in its letter that the project will be subject to judicial review for a period of time substantially beyond the March 4, 2024 time frame, and that until that judicial review us finalized, there should be no offshore construction authorized to proceed.
The letter is signed by David Hubbard, partner in the firm of Gatzke, Dillon, and Ballance (GDB), which has been retained by the Coalition to provide advice and counsel with respect to Dominion’s offshore wind project and its compliance with federal statutes and regulations. GDB is also counsel for plaintiffs who have brought suit against the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Department of Interior, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and other federal agencies with respect to offshore wind development in Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.
The following statements from members of the Coalition may be used for attribution. For more comment or to schedule an interview, please contact Jim Lakely, vice president and director of communications at The Heartland Institute at [email protected] or call/text his cell: 312-731-9364.
“The Draft Environmental Impact Statement issued by BOEM for the Virginia Wind project contains numerous procedural and substantive violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other federal statutes and regulations. The Coalition is warning BOEM, NOAA, and other federal agencies not to approve Dominion Energy’s recent request – which would allow the harassment and injuring of whales and other marine mammals – until all of the federal statutory requirements and regulations have been complied with and approved by appropriate federal agencies, and that permission has been obtained from all courts that have been requested to review and approve the federal permits.
“With dozens of dead whales and dolphins washing up on the shores of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia, now is a particularly unsuitable time for NOAA to authorize the harassment or injury of right whales and other endangered species. It is equally problematic for Dominion Energy to be seeking whale harassment permission at this time. Dominion Energy is attempting to put the cart before the horse. There should be no issuance of incidental harassment authority by federal agencies until the offshore construction activities to which it is ‘incidental’ have been finally approved by appropriate federal agencies and the courts.”
“We have conferred with dozens of environmental and conservation groups from NY, MD, and NJ who are furious that all of these dead whales and dolphins should appear on their beaches immediately following the sonar blasting survey work undertaken by wind developers adjacent to these beaches. The excuse by the federal authorities that there is ‘no evidence’ connecting this sonar blasting with mammal deaths rings hollow as any federally approved harassment could send whales into major shipping channels that surround the lease areas.
“Possible death by vessel strikes of harassed whales supports our request, along with the congressional resolution sponsored by U.S. Reps. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), Chris Smith (R- NJ), Andy Harris (R-MD) and Scott Perry (R-PA), for an immediate moratorium on offshore wind development and a complete, independent investigation into the cause of all this marine mammal destruction.”
“BOEM has already admitted that it is a ‘partner’ with offshore wind developers in implementing the Biden administration’s goal of industrializing the East Coast with thousands of wind turbines. It is not acting, as it should by law, like an independent body equally as concerned with environmental protection as with the construction of expensive, unreliable, industrial wind factories.
“This request by Dominion Energy for permission to harm, injure, and kill whales and other marine mammals even before the environmental impacts, construction and operations plan, and potential biological removal for Virginia Wind have been finally issued and approved raises suspicions that the Biden administration is prepared to green light offshore wind development regardless of clear legal requirements and the obvious danger it poses to the survival of the Right Whale and other endangered species.”
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D.
Director, Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate & Environmental Policy
The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, Environment & Climate News