By Elise Young
(Bloomberg) –A spate of whale and dolphin deaths along New Jersey’s shore is prompting Republican lawmakers to call for a halt to preliminary work on Governor Phil Murphy’s offshore wind projects.
The Republicans say the deaths may be the result of ocean floor surveying, part of the Democratic governor’s plan for 100% clean energy by 2035. Though wind farms don’t yet exist off the New Jersey coast, they say preliminary work may be interfering with the animals’ sonar communications and leading them astray.
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“The logical thing to do would be to pause all offshore wind projects until we have more data,” state Senator Michael Testa, a Republican from Vineland, said in a statement.
On Wednesday, eight dolphins were scheduled for post-mortem exams a day after they were found stranded in Sea Isle City, 147 miles (237 kilometers) south of New York City. Two were dead and the others, suffering from an unspecified ailment, were euthanized, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Administration.
Since Dec. 1, at least nine dead whales and 23 dolphins have been found on or near New Jersey’s Atlantic shore, in what the oceanic administration is calling “unusual mortality events.” Exams have shown that some had been struck by boats or entangled in fishing gear. The animals increasingly are drawn to feeding grounds where plankton and other food is flourishing, the result of a cleaner Hudson River.
Last week, four Republican US congressmen, including the two from New Jersey, led a hearing in Wildwood whose invited speakers said offshore wind energy may harm marine life and saddle taxpayers with costs. State utility regulators this month agreed to seek proposals for a third planned wind farm toward an offshore goal of 11,000 megawatts by 2040.
The state Department of Environmental Protection said last week that no offshore wind-related construction activity has taken place. In a statement, the department said it “is aware of no credible evidence that offshore wind-related survey activities could cause whale mortality.”
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