After House passes Smith amendment with broad bipartisan support Lawmakers take next step to get GAO independent investigation into the impacts of unprecedented offshore wind industrialization
New poll shows New Jersey residents want to halt offshore wind projects
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) today led a letter with House Natural Resources Committee Chair Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) and Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) to the Government Accountability Office (GAO)—the congressional watchdog—requesting an independent investigation into the potential impacts of offshore wind development on the environment, the fishing industry, military operations, navigational safety and more.
The push comes just weeks after a top Biden Administration energy official—Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Liz Klein—would not say whether 3,400 massive wind turbines slated for the area that includes the nation’s busiest port could survive major hurricanes and failed to address reports that call into question their safety when pressed by Smith at a congressional hearing.
“We request that the GAO conduct a study analyzing the potential impacts of offshore wind energy development and associated infrastructure in the North Atlantic Planning Area, including associated infrastructure and vessel traffic,” the four congressmen wrote.
“We also request that the GAO include a study analyzing the sufficiency of the environmental review process conducted by BOEM, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, prior to holding the offshore wind lease sales that have occurred to date within the North Atlantic Planning Area; and a study describing all state and federal grants, tax credits or other public funds available for offshore wind projects in the North Atlantic Planning Area,” the congressmen wrote.
The study requested in the letter reflects the one required by the amendment offered by Smith to the Lower Energy Costs Act (HR 1) in late March. Smith’s amendment—which garnered strong bipartisan support and passed the House in a vote of 244-189—has since moved to the Senate as part of HR 1, which Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer declared was “dead on arrival.”
In response, Smith personally asked Chairman Westerman to join him in requesting the study directly from the GAO, which traditionally grants requests made by the sitting chair of a committee with jurisdiction.
“Like canaries in coal mines, the recent spate of tragic whale and dolphin deaths—and a well-founded suspicion that geophysical surveys including the use of sonar may be a contributing cause—has brought new light and increased scrutiny to the fast tracking of approximately 3,400 offshore wind turbines covering 2.4 million acres off New Jersey’s coast by 2030,” said Smith, who has repeatedly called for an immediate pause to the offshore wind projects.
According to a new poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey residents oppose the continued development of offshore wind farms by a margin of 42 to 33 percent in light of concerns about the recent spate of whale and dolphin deaths along the shore.
“This much-needed GAO study will help address the many unanswered questions and concerns that continue to be dismissed by the Biden Administration and Governor Murphy about these unprecedented projects that would permanently transform New Jersey’s coast and could cause potential irreparable harm to the Jersey Shore’s economy and environment,” said Smith.
In the letter, the GAO was asked to examine a wide range of concerns, including:
“With so much at stake, a serious, aggressive, and independent analysis on the ocean-altering impact of these projects is absolutely critical,” Smith said.