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Congressman joins call to pause wind projects amid whale deaths

Jonathan D. Salant - For The Star-Ledger  


    Rep. Chris Smith on Tuesday added his voice to the chorus of concern over a series of unexplained whale deaths during the last two months, calling for a moratorium on the development of offshore wind.

    “Over the course of the past several months, there have been repeated instances of dead whales washing up on New Jersey’s shoreline, and the proximity of nearby offshore wind development has raised concerns that ongoing activity on these projects may be contributing to whale fatalities,” Smith, R-4th Dist., said in letters to to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

    Smith joined Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd Dist., among New Jersey members of Congress in calling for a work stoppage while officials investigate the deaths of eight sperm or humpback whales whose carcasses washed up on the Atlantic shorelines of New Jersey or New York.

    “The lack of conclusive evidence disproving the link between offshore wind development and whale deaths is sufficient enough to require a pause until assurances can be made to the public that the environmental and maritime safety of these projects has been properly reviewed,” Smith said.

    “Accordingly, I request that all work be suspended until such time that ecological safety can be assured,” he said.

    Federal officials said they were studying the deaths to determine whether they were connected to the development of offshore wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean. Offshore wind is slated to be a significant

    part of the transition from fossil fuels, which are major contributors to climate change.

    Gov. Phil Murphy, meanwhile, has opposed a pause in wind development while the study is ongoing.

    Smith’s 61% lifetime approval rating from the League of Conservation Voters is the third highest among Republicans, behind only Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Van Drew.

    He was one of only three House Republicans last week to back an unsuccessful amendment by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-6th Dist., to ban offshore drilling off the Jersey Shore and other areas of the North Atlantic Ocean.

    Mayors from 12 Jersey Shore towns also called for a moratorium on wind development in a separate letter to the state’s congressional delegation.

    “While we are not opposed to clean energy, we are concerned about the impacts these projects may already be having on our environment,” wrote the mayors of Bay Head, Brigantine, Deal, Linwood, Long Beach Township, Mantoloking, Margate, North Wildwood, Point Pleasant Beach, Spring Lake, Stone Harbor and Wildwood Crest.

    “We urge you to take action now to prevent future deaths from needlessly occurring on our shorelines,” they wrote.

    Smith referred to the mayors’ letter in his own, noting that four of the towns mentioned were in his congressional district.

    “I share their concerns regarding the several offshore wind projects under development off the coast of New Jersey, and their requisite impact on recent whale deaths, as well as the potential impacts on the broader environment and the fishing industry,” Smith said.

    Jonathan D. Salant, NJ Advance Media,


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