Federal Agency Agrees To Probe Of Offshore Wind Impacts, Smith Says

WASHINGTON, DC — An independent investigation into the potential impacts of offshore wind projects will be conducted by the Government Accountability Office, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith announced Thursday.

The GAO, a nonpartisan agency and watchdog, agreed to conduct the investigation, Smith said, looking at the impacts of New Jersey’s offshore wind development on the environment, the fishing industry, military operations, navigational safety and more.

“This aggressive, independent investigation into the ocean-altering impacts of the 3,400 offshore wind turbines slated for the Jersey Shore will help address the wide-ranging questions and concerns that the Biden Administration and Governor Murphy continue to dismiss as they plow full steam ahead with this unprecedented offshore wind industrialization of our shore,” Smith said in announcing the probe.

Chuck Young, managing director of public affairs for the GAO, confirmed the office will be conducting an investigation but said the details of the scope and the expected time frame for a report still have to be determined.

The announcement said Smith will be hosting a meeting with GAO officials in his office in the coming weeks to address the details.

Smith has been calling for an investigation and a halt on work in connection with offshore wind projects since February, when a string of more than 20 deaths of whales in the New Jersey and New York area spurred a rally that drew hundreds of people to Point Pleasant Beach.

Smith, who represents the 4th Congressional District, and Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who represents the 2nd District, also held a hearing in Wildwood on the matter. Smith and Van Drew have been calling for a moratorium on all exploratory work and awarding of leases for additional sites.

New Jersey officials have insisted the offshore wind surveys are not the cause of the string of whale deaths, but has earmarked $8.5 million for “scientific efforts to ensure the safe and ecologically responsible development of offshore wind energy.”

Another $26 million for monitoring has been committed by companies as part of a second wind energy solicitation, which is underway with proposals due June 23. Read more: Amid Whale Deaths, NJ Pursues More Offshore Wind Contracts

“It is absolutely critical that New Jersey residents understand all the impacts of these offshore wind projects — which will permanently transform our marine environment and seascape and could put our tourism-drive economy at grave risk — before it’s too late,” Smith said.

The GAO study was requested by Smith in a May 15 letter with House Natural Resources Committee Chair Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Van Drew, and Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD).

In the letter, Smith and his colleagues asked the GAO to examine a wide range of concerns, including:

  • Air and maritime safety, including the operation of radar systems;
  • Impacts to air traffic, including military training missions off the Atlantic Coast;
  • Commercial fishing activities, including fisheries-related surveys and associated management plans, fishing access in the Outer Continental Shelf and economic impacts to the fishing industry;
  • Marine environment and ecology, including whales and dolphins, and any endangered or threatened species;
  • Resiliency of offshore wind infrastructure to hurricanes and other extreme weather events off the Atlantic Coast.

Federal Agency Agrees To Probe Of Offshore Wind Impacts, Smith Says | Point Pleasant, NJ Patch