WASHINGTON, Nov. 22 -- Robert Stern, former director of the Environmental Compliance Office at the U.S. Department of Energy, has issued a public comment on behalf of the Long Beach Island Coalition for Wind Without Impact on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management notice entitled "Environmental Impact Statements; Availability, etc.: Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind Projects Offshore New Jersey". The comment was written on Oct. 21, 2021, and posted on Nov. 16, 2021:
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This letter is on behalf of the Long Beach Island, New Jersey, Coalition for Wind Without Impact. We represent over a thousand persons and businesses concerned with this project. We are not opposed to offshore wind energy in general and seek only that where it is pursued, it be done in a reasonable and consistent manner.
As requested in the Notice of Intent (NOI), we are providing detailed prescriptive suggestions in Enclosure 2 on the scope, content and timing of release for the EIS, as well as the Biological Assessment (BA) and Opinion (BO) to be prepared under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The topics covered are listed in Enclosure 1.
Of more immediate concern however is that the proposed federal action itself is unreasonable, because it would:
(1) block the essential migration of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, by creating operational turbine-generated noise levels above the 120-decibel behavior disruption criterion throughout its entire 12-mile wide outer adjacent migration corridor (Exhibit B),
(2) due to that blockage, would seem to violate both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, requiring, because of the long-term impact, an Incidental Take Rulemaking (ITR) to show otherwise,
(3) force endangered fin and humpback whales frequenting closer-in areas (Exhibit C) to shore to avoid the turbine noise, causing beach stranding,
(4) scar the prized Jersey shore by creating the closest, most visible modern turbine wind complex in the world, significantly reducing tourism, rentals and local employment, and
(5) potentially decimate the threatened piping plover bird population that must now cross the turbine complex to nest on the Island.
Since this involves all of your agencies, we seek your personal attention to this problematic proposal.
The Proposed Action Jeopardizes the North Atlantic right whale (NARW).
* The project proposes turbine placement 9/10 to 20 miles offshore. The North Atlantic right whale's migration corridor here extends from about 20 miles to 32 miles offshore.
* The critically endangered NARW must migrate through that corridor south/north each year between its calving and feeding grounds to survive. Its numbers are already low and recently are declining rapidly (Exhibit A).
* Neither the NOI or the Construction and Operations Plan (COP) state the power, manufacturer, drive type or foundation type of the turbine proposed to be used. But the New Jersey Board of Public utilities (BPU) approval of 1510 megawatts (mw) for Project 1 was based on the use of Vesta-236 13.6 mw turbines and monopile foundations (BG1). We assume that Atlantic Shores is adhering to the conditions of the State's approval so our analysis herein is based on the use of those turbines and foundations.
* The use of 13.6-megawatt Vesta-236 gearbox turbines would place multiple, long term operational, continuous, elevated underwater noise sources of 180 decibels (W2) (W17) along the western side of the whale's migratory corridor (Enclosure 2, II.1 and Exhibit B).
* The noise zone of influence from a single turbine, i.e, the area above 120 decibels(dB) where the whale's behavior would be disturbed, would extend 6 miles (W2) or halfway across the whale's 12-mile-wide migratory corridor, using the formula for transmission loss in that study,15 log 10 (r/r0).
* The combined impact of that single turbine and others in the complex would extend the disturbed behavior zone of influence above 120 dB to at least 22 miles, filling the entire 12-mile-wide migratory corridor (II.1).
* Since the distances needed for noise reduction to 120 dB are far greater than the spacing between turbines (about 1 mile), the 120 dB level will also be exceeded everywhere within the wind complex.
* This creates a "wall" of noise across the entire wind complex and the whale's migration corridor, essentially blocking it.
* It will be extremely difficult for the whales to avoid W18 that expanse of elevated noise and continue its migration. Attempting to do will expose them to high cumulative sound exposures potentially exceeding hearing threshold shift criteria, cause loss of communication between and separation of females from calves, stranding, and loss of echolocation and other navigational abilities (I.3).
* Experiments have shown (W5) that one reaction of the right whale to such sound disturbance is to ascend and swim just under the surface where it is vulnerable to vessel strike.
* The proposed use by the Coast Guard (BG2) of the right whale's migration corridor as a new deep draft vessel lane (Exhibit D) would significantly increase the risk of vessel strike once it ascends.
* Subsequent planned turbine placement along the inner part of the Hudson South area would only elevate the noise levels in the migration corridor and worsen the problem.
* Mitigating measures involving detection and turbine shut down are not viable for the large noise influence zones and multi-year operational time frames here, leading to the need for consideration of turbine exclusion zones to avoid disrupting the right whale's migration.
* However, since the zone of influence above 120 dB (at least 22 miles) from even the innermost turbines at 10 miles extends across the entire 12-mile width of the migration corridor, there is no place in this project area for turbine placement that will protect the whale's migration.
It will force Endangered Fin and Humpback whales dangerously close to shore.
* A similar problem is encountered on the inner side of the project area to protect the endangered fin and humpback whales that frequent distances out to 11.5 miles (Exhibit C).
* Project area sited turbines would generate elevated noise levels above 120 dB all the way to the shore, and
* would force these whales towards shore to try to avoid it, causing beach stranding.
It will scar the prized New Jersey shore by creating the closest, most visible large turbine wind complex in the world off it.
* Beyond its conflict with the ESA and MMPA, the proposed action is unreasonable in other respects. The explosion in wind turbine size since this area was leased would make this project the closest, most visible modern, turbine wind complex in the entire world (Exhibit E).
* That extraordinary visibility would destroy the natural beauty of an unvarnished ocean vista from an 18 mile long, 5000-year-old barrier island, cause an extreme, adverse economic impact on the Island (I.8), and reduce shore breezes and raise air temperatures as wind energy is extracted (I.12).
It will potentially decimate the threatened Piping Plover population that has nested on the Island and been protected for many years.
* A substantial number of piping plovers, about 86, nest on the Island. They migrate north south beyond the project area and therefore must cross it to get to their nesting grounds. Their ability to avoid wind turbines of this size is unknown, but reasonable estimates predict the death of 31 percent of the population crossing the wind complex each year (I.13).
Conclusions and Recommendations.
This proposed action is arbitrary, extreme, and unreasonable. It would block the essential migration of, and likely seal the fate of, the North Atlantic right whale. It will force fin and humpback whales to shore causing stranding. It will create the world's most visually disturbing modern wind turbine complex off of a beautiful 18-mile-long seascape.
The location and width of the project area does not allow for turbine exclusion zones to allow the whale to migrate (I.1). These conflicts were raised to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) prior to its power purchase agreement with Atlantic Shores (BG3) but not considered. They were raised with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in our comments (BG4) on the Ocean Wind NOI, and apparently ignored because there is no mention of the right whale operational noise problem in this NOI.
Absent any consideration of these conflicts in formulating the proposal, any number up to two hundred turbines is an entirely arbitrary one, would very likely violate the MMPA and the ESA, and is therefore not a reasonable federal proposal to be made under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Regarding visible impact, at a minimum the turbine exclusion zone that was provided by BOEM for New York State of 17.3 miles V5 based on visible impact should be adopted for New Jersey projects. If not, the EIS needs to provide an explanation as to why that exclusion zone is not being applied to NJ projects.
In light of the gravity of the endangered whale problem, the extraordinary visible impact and other major problems, we ask involved agency managers to review these issues personally, and we offer to meet with you to explore reasonable alternatives to this project that can still meet offshore wind energy goals.
We ask the BOEM to rescind this proposal and NOI. The BOEM should propose appropriate turbine placement in the Hudson South area, and the use of this lease area to transmit the power from Hudson South to shore. There is ample wind energy in Hudson South to meet the NJ State goal of 7500 mw of offshore wind power by 2035 (Enclosure 2, Table 2).
In the event that the BOEM proceeds with this ill-conceived proposal, we provide detailed suggestions in Enclosure 2 regarding the content, analysis, clarity, and presentation of results in the EIS (II.1-6, V), the BA and BO (IV.1), and the timing of their release (III.1-3), to make these documents scientifically credible, consistent with each other, and understandable to the public. The comment topics covered are listed in Enclosure 1. Among those suggestions,
* The EIS should provide a comparable analysis of the no action alternative, using a realistic scenario of where the proposed 1510 mw of turbine power for project 1, and whatever power the BOEM proposes for project 2 and the remaining lease area, would be placed if this project was not approved, since it is not likely that the State's goal would be abandoned (II.2-3) in that case.
* The proposal should exclude turbines within 17.3 miles of shore as was done by the BOEM for New York State (I.9) to mitigate the extreme visible impact.
* The BOEM should include the State Plan's connected actions under NEPA rules, and reasonable alternatives within it (II.1,2,3) in the scope of this EIS, end the practices of scoring impacts (II.5) and excessive referencing to other documents (II.6), and focus on presenting significant impacts (II.6) as opposed to lengthy presentations of background information and insignificant impacts.
* The EIS, ITR, BA and BO should present precise "jeopardize" and "negligible impact" criteria (I.2), describe any realistic avoidance scenarios and the scientific basis for them, not just rely on opaque modeling results (I.3), and augment mean take and harm estimates with an uncertainty analysis to provide results close to a 95 percent confidence level (I.4).
* The BOEM, National Marine and Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the Coast Guard should collaborate on a joint study to assess the synergistic impact on the right whale from the long-term operational noise of the offshore wind projects foreseen, and the use of its migratory corridor as a deep draft vessel lane, and include the results in the EIS, ITR, BA and BO.
We also request, as an interested party, to participate in the formal ESA Section 7 90-day consultation period (IV.3), and would appreciate a response to that request.
If we could offer a closing thought. As seen from these comments, notwithstanding the distress this project causes our supporters, we have been and will continue to be forthright, specific, and professional in our dealings with your agency. Some reciprocity is sought to address the continuing obfuscation surrounding this project: the inappropriate and confusing use of a project design envelope as the proposal (V), the failure to present a federal project purpose and a clear preliminary, reasonable proposal in terms of the intended use of the full lease area, the turbine power, capacity factor, size, make, number, drive type, spacing, foundation type, and locations (V), the use of non-representative and misleading visual renditions (I.10), the lack of any meaningful alternatives (II.1-3), and the clouding of, rather than illuminating the project's significant impacts (II.5-6). This lack of clarity and full disclosure, especially regarding the Atlantic Shore's project full geographical scope, turbine visualizations, and the State's prior turbine make and foundation-type approvals, does not serve the public nor you as decision-makers. Therefore, we do hope that all our suggestions throughout will be seriously considered in the interest of pursuing a reasonable and transparent offshore wind effort, with opportunity for real public engagement and influence.
View attachment at https://downloads.regulations.gov/BOEM-2021-0057-0050/attachment_1.pdf">.... Robert Stern
Former Director, Office of Environmental Compliance
U.S. Department of Energy
On behalf of the Long Beach Island Coalition for Wind Without Impact
Cc; James Bennett & Michelle Morin, BOEM, Jennifer Anderson, NMFS, Jane Cohen, NJ Governor's Office, Joseph Fiordaliso, NJBPU, Jacyln Daly, NMFS, Eric Schrading, FWS, George H. Detweiler, USCG, Jim Ferris, NJ BPU, Megan Brunatti, NJDEP, Carl Lobue, the Nature Conservancy, Peter Baker, Pew Charitable Trusts, Francine Kershaw, NRDC.
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The notice can be viewed at: https://www.regulations.gov/document/BOEM-2021-0057-0001">https://www.re... NEWS SERVICE (founded 2004) features non-partisan 'edited journalism' news briefs and information for news organizations, public policy groups and individuals; as well as 'gathered' public policy information, including news releases, reports, speeches. For more information contact MYRON STRUCK, editor, mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org, Springfield, Virginia; 703/304-1897; https://targetednews.com">https://targetednews.com