New Jersey congressman rebukes green energy company for ignoring whale deaths
EXCLUSIVE: A New Jersey congressman blasted Orsted, a green energy giant, Friday after the company refused to attend his hearing on the environmental impacts of offshore wind.
Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J., noted that Orsted, a Denmark-based power company worth more than $240 billion, has been absent from the ongoing review of offshore wind impacts on wildlife, particularly endangered whale species, despite having an office located in his district. The company is involved in multiple offshore wind projects along the East Coast, including a 2,200-megawatt development along the shoreline of Van Drew’s district.
The congressman directed his ire at the company shortly after he hosted a field hearing Thursday with stakeholders and experts in Wildwood, New Jersey. Orsted representatives rejected an invitation to testify at the event.
“I invited Orsted to come testify at the hearing with weeks advanced notice. They have an office located in my district, yet they declined the opportunity to appear in front of our panel consisting of expert witnesses,” Van Drew told Fox News Digital.
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“Orsted has claimed they have had a ‘comprehensive, public process,’ yet I know my district, and it would be very difficult to find anyone from our community to our stakeholders who feel that they have been involved in that process.
“So, it is no surprise that they refused to show up because they don’t have the answers we are demanding,” Van Drew added. “The federal government is allowing these offshore wind companies to bypass in-depth analyses of offshore wind farms’ long-term impacts in order to push through this administration’s Green New Deal policies.
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“It is becoming more and more clear that [Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)] and [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)] are in collusion with these companies, and they won’t be able to hide forever.”
Van Drew organized the hearing — which Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., Andy Harris, R-Md., and Scott Perry, R-Pa., also attended — in response to a recent unprecedented uptick in whale deaths along the East Coast. According to federal data, 14 humpback whales and six North Atlantic right whales have been discovered dead this year alone with most beaching in New Jersey and Virginia.
In the aftermath of the deaths, Van Drew, Smith, dozens of local officials and several environmental groups have demanded the federal government issue a moratorium on offshore wind development, arguing relevant agencies, like NOAA and BOEM, needed to first conduct a more expansive review of environmental impacts before massive turbine construction projects proceeded.
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“All of us up here believe serious, aggressive and independent analysis of the ocean-altering impact of these projects is so egregious,” Smith said at the hearing Thursday. “The wind farm approval process has been shoddy at best, leaving unaddressed and unanswered numerous serious questions concerning the extraordinarily harmful environmental impact on marine life.”
Federal officials, clean energy advocacy groups and Orsted, though, have pushed back on criticism, saying there is no evidence wind farm construction is contributing to the increasing number of whale deaths. In a press briefing earlier this year, NOAA and BOEM officials highlighted that an “unusual mortality event” had been declared for humpback and right whales years ago.
However, the U.S. is on pace this year for 67 dead humpback whales and 29 dead right whales, federal data showed. The previous record for humpback deaths was recorded in 2017 when 34 were discovered dead and the highest number of right whale deaths, 31, was reported that same year.
“Orsted does not believe a moratorium on the development of offshore wind is warranted, and our company is committed to helping New Jersey prepare for its clean energy future through the responsible development of a local and sustainable offshore wind industry,” Maddy Urbish, the company’s New Jersey-based head of government affairs and policy, told Fox News Digital in a statement.
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Urbish added that the federal government has thoroughly reviewed Ocean Wind 1, part of the company’s wind project off the coast of Atlantic City. She said BOEM’s 1,408-page draft environmental analysis of the project includes 1,200 cited references from sources such as the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy and the local county, in addition to peer-reviewed experts, while more than 100 stakeholders were consulted on the process.
“We have been transparent about our plans and remain diligent in educating the public, local communities, commercial fishing representatives and stakeholders throughout the project’s development,” she continued. “We will continue to answer questions and provide information about our proposed projects as they move through the federal and state review process.”