By MADDY VITALE
A petition drive that demands a halt on wind farm projects following whale deaths along the coast has collected more than 240,000 signatures so far.
Ocean City wind farm opponent Suzanne Hornick, one of the founders of Protect Our Coast NJ, which began in 2019, said it is time to stop offshore wind acoustic testing.
“Look at all of the people who care. We don’t believe what our government is telling us as residents of the shore and lovers of the ocean,” Hornick said Friday. “We know something is drastically different and wrong here and we need to stop all offshore activity until we know for sure.”
The Danish energy company Orsted plans to build the project, the first wind energy farm along the New Jersey coast, 15 miles offshore between Atlantic City and Stone Harbor.
As part of the preliminary work for the project, Orsted is going through the permitting and government review process at this time. The 1,100-megawatt project is expected to come online in 2024 and be fully operational by 2025 to provide power to 500,000 homes, Orsted said.
Gov. Phil Murphy, a strong supporter of offshore wind technology, wants New Jersey to become a leader in green energy. So far, New Jersey has approved three offshore wind farms and is looking to add more. Murphy’s goal is to have offshore wind farms producing 11,000 megawatts of power in New Jersey by 2040.
But it appears that many New Jersey residents are opposed to the wind farms, at least until there is more known about the effects on marine life and migratory birds, not to mention what it may do to tourism, opponents have said.
In the past six weeks, the petition https://www.change.org/p/protect-our-coast-nj-save-the-whales-stop-offshore-wind has garnered more than 245,000 signatures, with a goal of 300,000.
David Stevenson, president of the American Coalition for Ocean Protection (ACOP), has been fighting for ocean protection for years.
He said in an interview Friday that first, there must be a pilot program done prior to a full-on wind farm project. He believes there needs to be further research on the environmental impact.
Stevenson said of the number of signatures on the petition, “It is amazing how it has gotten so many signatures in just six weeks. A moratorium is needed until there is a pilot program.”
The petition was addressed, specifically, to President Joe Biden and Gov. Murphy.
In part, the petition says, “These massive, unprecedented experimental projects have been fast-tracked without meaningful public input, and with all the impacted cities and towns denied the right to home rule by executive action of the Governor of New Jersey.”
It continued, “The proposed offshore wind farms could result in irreversible ecological damage to the marine environment, including the injury or death of thousands of marine species, and as a result, greatly diminish the quality of life in our coastal communities.”
“These projects are projected to reduce shore residents’ property values, curtail tourism, severely affect the fishing, boating, and hospitality industries, greatly increase energy costs to New Jersey ratepayers, and provide no tangible benefits to the people of the State of New Jersey,” the petition concludes.
Hornick is hopeful that Biden could do something in his executive power to stop the project from going forward until further is known about what is leading to whale deaths.
“I am hoping, at the very least, that the petition will cause an immediate halt to offshore activity, because we feel very strongly that there is an absolute connection between the offshore wind acoustic testing and the unusually high number of dolphins and whale deaths,” she said. “We are not against wind energy. We support many different types of green renewable energy, just not this.”
Among the recent whale deaths according to Protectourcoastnj.com are as follows:
- Dead Whale at Seaside Park 3-2-2023
- Dead Whale at Manasquan 2-13-2023
- Dead Whale at Brigantine Beach 1-12-2023
- Dead Whale at Atlantic City Beach 1-7-2023
- Dead Whale at Atlantic City Beach 12-23-2022
- Dead Whale at Rockaway Beach 12-13-2022; 6th large whale to strand in New York since 10-20-22
- Dead Whale at Strathmere Beach 12-10-2022
- Dead Whale at Amagansett Beach 12-9-2022
- Dead Whale at Keansburg Beach 12-5-2022
For more information about Protect Our Coast NJ, visit protectourcoastnj.com