PRESS RELEASE: Whales Die While Dominion Energy Hides Crucial Information

whales wind turbine

Right Whale Female Died Last Week 50 Miles Off Virginia Coast

Dominion Energy Claims Its Whale Protection Information is ‘Confidential and Proprietary’

Three Public Interest Groups File Request Under Freedom Of Information Act To Obtain Dominion Energy’s Plan To Protect Endangered Whales

A coalition of three public interest groups—The Heartland Institute, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), and the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC)—filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to compel Dominion Energy to reveal the methods it intends to use to protect the critically endangered Right Whale from extinction. Dominion has hidden its species protection plan from public view. 

The FOIA request, filed April 2, seeks to compel the Bureau of Energy Management (BOEM) to release two documents that Dominion Energy has filed with BOEM which explain the procedures the energy giant will use to assure that its construction of a wind facility off the coast of Virginia will not result in harm to whales and other protected marine species. Dominion has marked these documents as “Proprietary and Confidential Business Information Exempt from Public Disclosure.”

This request after the reported death March 30 of a critically endangered North Atlantic right whale near Virginia Beach—a female that was accompanied by a newborn calf. This marks the fourth documented North Atlantic Right Whale death in US waters this year. Researchers say there are as few as 350 right whales left in the North Atlantic, with only 70 of those animals being females capable of weaning a calf.

This latest right whale fatality was named “Catalogue No. 1950” by the New England Aquarium. She was at least 35 years old and was last seen alive with her calf off Amelia Island, Florida on February 16. Experts do not expect the calf to survive without the support of its mother. According to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s aerial survey, the mother had successfully raised five prior calves.

On March 24, Heartland, CFACT, and NLPC filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking a preliminary injunction to stop Dominion Energy’s massive wind turbine project off the shore of Virginia. Now this coalition is asking BOEM for expedited treatment of this request for documents on the grounds that it is “a matter of urgent and compelling public interest.” The group has requested a response to their demand for information in 10 business days, rather than the usual 20 business days for less urgent requests.

Dominion Energy has stated in documents filed with BOEM that it intends to begin offshore construction activities no later than May 1. The project, if completed, will consist of 176 turbines with each blades longer than a football field. The turbines will be manufactured by the Siemens Co. Earlier this year, Siemens took a financial write down of $4.7 billion due to warranty payments caused by faulty turbine components.

The following statements may be used with attribution. For more information or to speak to any of the principals of this effort, please contact Jim Lakely, Director of Communications at The Heartland Institute, at [email protected] or call/text 312-731-9364.

Craig Rucker, President of CFACT, has criticized Dominion’s project as a “get rich quick boondoggle.” He adds: “This is just one more indication of Dominion’s bad faith and attempted cover up by sidestepping regulations that would not only protect the right whale but also help save many other marine species whose lives will be put in jeopardy by this unwanted and unnecessary project.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center for Climate and Environmental Policy at The Heartland Institute, said: “There is nothing commercially proprietary about the impact of Dominion’s offshore activities on the North Atlantic right whale or other protected marine mammals and sea life. And there is nothing proprietary about their efforts to mitigate any impact. Such information is critical to the public’s ability to critically assess of the impacts and its ability to comment on them with full knowledge.

“On this issue of fundamental importance transparency is critical, yet Dominion has made it opaque and the government, outrageously, has allowed it. Dominion and the government’s position appears to be: ‘Trust us, we are doing nothing wrong.’ But that is simply not good enough. Unless and until Dominion or the government releases the information in Dominion’s Appendices R and FF, and the public is allowed time to digest and comment on it, this project should be stayed by the courts and all permitting ceased.”

Paul Kamenar, lead counsel for NLPC said: “Federal regulations prohibit even one human-caused death per year if the right whale is to survive as a species. Robust review of the means by which Dominion intends to achieve that goal is the only way the public will accept the claim by Dominion that their protection of the Right Whale is adequate.”

James Taylor, President of the Heartland Institute, said: “I am totally perplexed why Dominion Energy believes it can obtain public approval of its wind factory by concealing its plan for protection of the right whale. How can protection of the right whale qualify as ‘confidential business information’ when at the same time Dominion is granted monopoly protection and a guaranteed rate of return on its assets.”