Time To Save the Right Whales From the Green Left?

*Editor’s note: While, as Climate Realism has pointed out previously, here, whales are not threatened by climate change, right whales are confronted with more boat traffic, and are being driven into boat traffic by offshore wind development, especially via sonar testing.

By Craig Rucker

There was a time back in the 1960’s and 70’s when a cause like “Save the Whales” was the exclusive domain of the political left.

But as Bob Dylan might say, “the times they are a changing”.

Three major “conservative” organizations – the National Legal Policy Center, Heartland Institute, and my organization, the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow – recently filed a major lawsuit in a Washington, D.C. federal court to save the Right Whale from facing potential oblivion.

Why aren’t the larger Green groups, unlike the grassroots ones, rallying around the efforts of these organizations to save Right whales?  Good question.  Perhaps it’s because the threat to the remaining 350 of them doesn’t come from Russian, Norwegian, or Japanese whaling vessels, as it did back in the 70’s.  Rather, it is from so-called “Green energy” in the form of offshore wind.  Right whales are being threatened by the Biden Administration’s fast-track plans to hurriedly place 30,000 MW of wind power generation off the Eastern coast, and doing so without the proper sort of environmental impact assessment they might otherwise perform for, say, offshore oil.

The collective decision by our outfits to take the issue of whale protection to Court came after two years of futile attempts to get the Biden Administration to listen. Offshore wind development threatens the nearly extinct North Atlantic Right Whale in various ways, and the government refuses to investigate.

The two agencies which share responsibility for making sure wind development does not harm whales include the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which oversees building wind facilities, and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS or NOAA Fisheries), which enforces the various laws to protect whales. Neither seems intent on doing their job.

In issuing its “biological opinion” last September, for instance, NMFS only examined the impact that each of these projects individually and in isolation would have on the North Atlantic right whale. The agency did not, as it should have, issue a comprehensive and cumulative analysis examining the combined harm which all the projects, together, would inflict on the whales during their annual migration path.

If it had done so, it would have uncovered that dangerous noises generated from several projects combine to create much louder and more dangerous circumstances for marine mammals than noises coming from just a single project. In fact, impacts can combine over time as well, such as when migrating Right Whales are repeatedly forced to go around a dozen wind facilities into heavily trafficked shipping lanes. The risk of being struck by a ship then becomes ten times greater than for a single project.

It’s likely for such reasons the Endangered Species Act specifically calls for assessment of cumulative impacts such as these, but the Biden Administration has ignored this requirement.

BOEM and NMFS say there is no evidence of a threat to whales. But this is just a coverup. The Right Whale population began its rapid decline in 2017, the year offshore wind development began in earnest. The Humpback Whale death rate tripled that very year and has remained abnormally high.

NMFS actually provides some of the strongest evidence. For every wind project they estimate the number of marine mammals by species that will be adversely affected by construction noise, something which they call “Level B Harassment”. For Right Whales the cumulative total of predicted Level B Harassments the government projects, and allows for, is already roughly twice the total population of the mammal … and growing.

Why is this a big deal?  Because such harassment can easily lead to a whale death. This can happen, for example, when the noise level of an operating turbine disrupts the navigation of a marine mammal, driving it into heavy ship traffic or fishing nets. BOEM and NMFS have refused to consider this deadly possibility, even for a single project like Dominion Energy’s windfarm off Virginia Beach, much less cumulatively. Meanwhile more and more whales are dying from ship strikes and fishing net entanglements as offshore wind development recklessly accelerates.

Harassment-caused death is merely one of many potentially deadly threats that BOEM and NMFS refuse to assess.  There are others we have cited, including loss of habitat, reduced food supply, and concentrated ship traffic.  This is why we are asking the Court to require that the government undertake such an investigation, as they are required to do so under the ESA, on all offshore wind projects cumulatively.

“Save the whales” is more than a slogan. It should be a directive our federal agencies are eager to carry out.  But if they won’t do it, then they shouldn’t be surprised to see lawsuits headed their way from every corner of the public interest – including from those of us on the right.

Craig Rucker is co-founder and president of the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow

Originally posted at RealClearPolicy, reposted with permission.

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  1. Good article, shows the hypocrisy and irony that the government and activist groups have when their green initiative for offshore wind farms affects one of the endangered species of the whale population! These creatures are territorial and their normal migratory path avoids ship traffic! Now they want to avoid the complaints and the increased incident rates because of noise interfering with the whales sensitivity to their surroundings! When the data doesn’t favor their own interests they ignore the problem! We know better and they need to stop their expansion of these noise generators before population growth is completely halted!


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