Climate Deniers Exploit Endangered Whales In Bid To Kill Offshore Wind

Among the nation’s most hard-line climate change deniers are branding themselves guardians of the critically endangered North Atlantic proper whale as they ramp up efforts to battle offshore wind growth alongside the East Coast.

The Heartland Institute and the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, higher often called CFACT, have teamed up with the American Coalition for Ocean Safety, a green-sounding anti-wind energy group, to “discover a lawsuit defending the appropriate whale from Dominion Vitality’s efforts to put an offshore wind mission immediately of their habitat.”

When full, Dominion’s deliberate $9.8 billion Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind mission will encompass 176 generators and produce sufficient electrical energy to energy greater than 600,000 properties. It will likely be situated 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Seashore.

Over 30 miles off Virginia Beach are Dominion Energy's first two turbines in its wind farm, pictured Sept. 27, 2021.
Over 30 miles off Virginia Seashore are Dominion Vitality’s first two generators in its wind farm, pictured Sept. 27, 2021.

Virginian Pilot through Getty Photos

In their September announcement, leaders of the right-wing organizations voiced concern for what the mission — one in every of a number of giant offshore wind farms in numerous phases of growth off the East Coast — would imply for the appropriate whale. The inhabitants of whales has been steadily falling since 2010, and fewer than 350 of the animals are estimated nonetheless residing.

“Except [the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management] requires intensive, efficient, unprecedented safety measures for the North Atlantic proper whale instantly, this species is nearly actually headed towards extinction,” stated David Stevenson, president of ACOP. “With solely somewhat greater than 300 particular person proper whales alive at present, this endangered species is in dire want of safety, and the Virginia Wind Undertaking lies immediately of their annual migration path.”

Whereas the authorized risk facilities on safeguarding the imperiled marine mammal, the organizations aren’t attempting to cover their major objective: killing an offshore wind mission that may compete with a fossil gasoline {industry} that every of them has deep ties to.

“The Virginia Wind Undertaking is a dangerous, expensive, waste of assets and a pitiful solution to generate electrical energy for a state which claims to be enterprise and client pleasant,” James Taylor, the president of the Heartland Institute, stated in a press release.

The two offshore wind turbines, constructed off the coast of Virginia Beach in 2020, are a pilot project for Dominion Energy's planned $9.8 billion Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.
The 2 offshore wind generators, constructed off the coast of Virginia Seashore in 2020, are a pilot mission for Dominion Vitality’s deliberate $9.8 billion Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind mission.

Heartland, a libertarian suppose tank and cheerleader for the fossil gasoline {industry}, peddles climate change disinformation and loved huge affect in the course of the Trump administration. Equally, CFACT has an extended historical past of dismissing established local weather science and advocating for elevated oil and gasoline growth.

The American Coalition for Ocean Safety is little greater than an anti-offshore wind outfit. Stevenson, the coalition’s president, is a former government of chemical large DuPont and served on the Trump administration’s transition crew for the Environmental Safety Company. On its web site, the group writes that its goal is to “no less than create a everlasting offshore wind exclusion zone to 33 miles off the whole jap seaboard of america.”

The coalition, a mission of libertarian suppose tank Caesar Rodney Institute, has repeatedly sued to attempt to block wind initiatives alongside the East Coast, together with Winery Wind off Massachusetts and South Fork Wind Farm off Rhode Island. The Caesar Rodney Institute and the Heartland Institute are each members of the State Coverage Community, an online of right-wing, industry-allied suppose tanks which have waged a battle towards environmental rules, renewable power and local weather science.

Stevenson, who has an extended historical past of combating local weather motion, is each director of the Caesar Rodney Institute’s Middle for Vitality Competitiveness and a coverage adviser on the Heartland Institute.

Heartland, CFACT and the Caesar Rodney Institute have all acquired fossil gasoline {industry} funding prior to now.

The coalition of teams has not but filed a lawsuit difficult the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind mission, however has threatened one with shameless hypocrisy, muddled messaging and greenwashing. Their campaign towards the mission and newfound concern in regards to the plight of proper whales comes after years of advocating for oil and gasoline growth in most of the similar areas off the East Coast, with out a lot as a whiff of public concern for a way drilling may influence the endangered whales.

“The dangers of seismic testing and oil spills have been exaggerated and are manageable in comparison with the potential giant financial advantages,” Stevenson stated in 2018 after lawmakers in Delaware handed laws aimed toward blocking offshore drilling in waters off the state’s coast.

Kert Davies, director of Climate Investigations Middle, a fossil gasoline {industry} watchdog, known as the coalition’s new marketing campaign “opportunism in a mercenary approach.”

David Stevenson, policy director at the Caesar Rodney Institute, is pictured at a press conference in August 2021 in Boston to announce a federal lawsuit aimed at blocking construction of Vineyard Wind off the coast of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.
David Stevenson, coverage director on the Caesar Rodney Institute, is pictured at a press convention in August 2021 in Boston to announce a federal lawsuit aimed toward blocking development of Winery Wind off the coast of Nantucket and Martha’s Winery.

The coalition has employed California regulation agency Gatzke, Dillon and Ballance to assist it evaluation an upcoming draft environmental influence assertion for the Dominion mission and to watch whether or not federal regulators are fulfilling necessities below bedrock environmental legal guidelines just like the Endangered Species Act and the Nationwide Environmental Coverage Act — legal guidelines that, within the context of fossil gasoline growth, the organizations have slammed as “burdensome” and have labored to erode.

The authorized marketing campaign has featured sweeping declarations that offshore wind ensures extinction for the appropriate whale. Taylor, of Heartland, instructed One America Information Community that “a mission like this simply actually drives the nail within the coffin of proper whales.” CFACT’s Collister Johnson made comparable feedback on Invoice Martinez’s speak radio present.

Requested what particularly he and others are basing their dire prediction on, Johnson stated: “Logic. That’s place to start out.”

“I’m basing it on the existence of 1000’s of wind generators and all of the ships that have to service them sitting within the path of the appropriate whale, and within the path of the place they forage and the place they calve,” Johnson stated. “That might be ship strikes, that might be noise, that might be all types of issues.”

Heartland and ACOP didn’t reply to HuffPost’s request for remark, together with questions on whether or not the fossil gasoline {industry} helps fund the authorized marketing campaign. When E&E Information requested Stevenson final 12 months about donations to the American Coalition for Ocean Safety, he stated: “Up to now there isn’t a Koch cash, not that we wouldn’t take it,” referring to the billionaire fossil gasoline moguls.

Like every offshore exercise, wind growth has the potential to disrupt and hurt proper whales and in any other case negatively influence the ocean atmosphere. Gib Brogan, a marketing campaign director on the environmental group Oceana, instructed HuffPost there’s “an extended record of unknowns” in terms of how the generators may have an effect on ocean currents, vitamins and the meals on which proper whales prey.

“I’m involved that the whales are going to bear the brunt of this and that we might not learn about these results for years,” Brogan stated. “With this species within the critically endangered state that it’s, they don’t have years to be taught these results. It’s excessive stakes on plenty of fronts, each financially but in addition for this species. And we wish to the federal government to be the stewards right here for the whales and ensure their wants are taken care of.”

The irony, in fact, is that the fossil fuel-allied teams which might be up in arms about offshore wind have opposed or remained silent about efforts to deal with the first threats to the whales, together with entanglements from fishing gear, vessel strikes and climate change.

The one particular potential influence that the three teams highlighted of their September announcement is that Dominion’s mission may put the marine mammals at greater danger of being hit by boats, which is already one of many main causes of proper whale mortality. The Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration not too long ago proposed expanded vessel pace limits and seasonal pace zones alongside the East Coast — modifications the company says are “important to stabilize the continued proper whale inhabitants decline and forestall the species’ extinction.”

An endangered North Atlantic right whale entangled in fishing rope swims alongside a newborn calf on Dec. 2, 2021, in waters near Cumberland Island, Georgia.
An endangered North Atlantic proper whale entangled in fishing rope swims alongside a new child calf on Dec. 2, 2021, in waters close to Cumberland Island, Georgia.

Regardless of its purported concern for the whales, CFACT opposes the proposed rule modifications. Johnson argued that decreasing vessel speeds gained’t forestall proper whale fatalities.

“Minimizing doesn’t get the job carried out,” Johnson stated. “We’ve to get rid of it.” Pressed about what he sees as the answer, Johnson stated it’s on federal regulators to give you a solution. “That’s not our drawback,” he stated.

Johnson scoffed when requested in regards to the influence of climate change on proper whales. Analysis exhibits ocean warming from human-caused climate change precipitated the whales to desert feeding grounds within the Gulf of Maine starting in 2010, finally contributing to a decline within the inhabitants.

The burning of fossil fuels is the principle driver of anthropogenic climate change.

“Climate change has nothing to do with the decline of the appropriate whales,” Johnson declared, falsely.

Dominion, which serves practically 7 million individuals in 10 states, instructed HuffPost it has “taken concrete steps to guard the appropriate whales and their migration path” because it advances its Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind mission.

“No underwater development will happen in the course of the migration season, and the generators will likely be spaced a few mile aside to keep away from disturbing their path,” Dominion spokesperson Jeremy Slayton stated in an emailed assertion.

In a separate assertion to the Virginia Star, Johnson slammed the conservative coalition combating its mission.

“These teams lack credibility on environmental points,” he stated. “They’re climate change deniers and oppose offshore wind for political functions.”

Johnson dismissed the concept that CFACT and different teams are exploiting the whale for their very own political agenda. He stated his group “helps all types of environmental issues.”

“It doesn’t shock me that they stated we’re horrible individuals,” Johnson stated of Dominion. “Relatively than ‘What are you attempting to get at?’ it’s ‘Oh they’re dangerous individuals, they’re local weather deniers. Write them off. They don’t rely.’ That’s what their normal working process is.”

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