PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Republicans representing areas along the Jersey Shore are unified in their calls to pause offshore wind activity, citing a recent spike in whale deaths as the reason. Environmentalists say, however, wind farms are not the problem.
In a span of about 40 days, four dead whales washed ashore on a 10-mile stretch of beach, with two found in Atlantic City.
Both politicians and environmentalists seem to have the interests of whales at heart. But in a bit of a role reversal, environmental activists want to push forward with offshore wind construction, while Republicans including Egg Harbor Township state Sen. Vince Polistina, say this is alarming enough to at least pause the offshore wind activity for a month to rule it out.
“Partisan politics seeps into every single issue,” said Stockton University William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy Director John Froonjian, who said offshore wind farms are not the issue at hand with these whale deaths.
“There is no evidence linking these deaths to the work on the wind farms,” he explained. “Scientists have come up with no connection.”
Froonjian said voters near the shore just don’t want offshore wind, and elected officials there know it.
“I would never criticize elected officials for representing the interests of their constituents,” said Froonjian, “but there is no evidence at this point linking [whale deaths] to wind farms.”
At least two of the whales had injuries that appear to be the result of being hit by a boat.
“Autopsies that have been done on stranded whales in recent years have found that vessel strikes and fishing equipment are the cause of many of the deaths, and nobody is talking about banning fishing or boat traffic,” he said.
Froonjian noted it is interesting to see the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club among the groups defending the energy industry in this situation.
“Politics makes strange bedfellows,” he said, adding that the environmental groups are doing it to transition away from fossil fuels, with wind as a preferred path forward.
“I think they’re not going to abandon that work unless there is a strong factual connection,” he said.
Froonjian said that without any concrete evidence that offshore wind is the cause of whale deaths, Gov. Phil Murphy and the Democrats in charge in Trenton are unlikely to pull the plug on a signature policy.