In the following exclusive RAIR Foundation USA interview, Lisa Linowes of Save Right Whales details the so-called green energy projects and corrupted environmental government agencies that could cause irreversible adverse impacts to critically endangered and threatened species. Furthermore, these projects could push at-risk species ever closer to extinction. The Right Whales could be one of the most impacted species, and only 350 remain in the world.
‘Wind industry has been successful in cloaking itself in green’
For the longest time, Linowes, also the Executive Director for the Windaction Group, refrained from even labeling herself as an environmentalist because of the implied association with the anti-environmental activities caused by the ‘Green’ movement in the name of fighting climate change.
The wind industry has pushed hard for the advancement of renewable energy, a movement that financially benefits the industry. Accordingly, it has aligned and collaborated with the environmental movement to advance the build-out of turbines.
The wind industry has been promoted very heavily by the environmental movements, with the effort to get us off fossil fuel and run the US economy, the European economy, and the world economy, on renewable energy to reduce our carbon emissions have been pushing very hard to to get turbines built.
They are working together with the environmental movement to say this is our only solution to meet the climate issue in terms of, you know, reducing our reliance on fossil fuel. And the wind industry has been very successful. It’s cloaked itself in green; it puts itself out there as the energy resource of choice. And up until a couple of years ago, it was the only renewable energy source that could be developed at scale.
However, these turbines bring with them numerous adverse consequences. Not only are turbines unsightly and noisy, but they also take up a lot of space. To accommodate these massive structures, turbines are often built in remote areas. In less sparsely populated areas, turbines are often built along ridges, which can be highly sensitive habitats home to certain species acclimated to living in those areas. “This is where we were starting to see significant problems with the conflict between wildlife and wind energy,” explained Lisa.
Turbines built offshore kill
Governmental regulatory agencies and industry coalesced around the decision to build turbines offshore to address the societal and environmental negative impacts of turbines. In the ocean, turbines are more efficient as there is no interference from structures. And although the turbines are visible, no one complains about the noise in these remote settings. The ocean turbines are extremely tall (800 to 1000 feet) and have massive blades. There are currently seven turbines off the coasts of Rhode Island and Virginia. Thousands of new turbines are slated to be built up to ten miles offshore to meet energy demands. While trumpeted as a big win for the energy sector, this build-out is terrible news for the Right whales.
Foundations for wind turbines are pounded into the ground on the land under the water with pile drivers. This is a massive operation, as the typical tower has a diameter of 30 feet. The noise alone from these operations is sufficient to kill animals of various species.
In addition, there will be vessels traveling to and from the construction site. Vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are the two major causes of mortality in Right whales. As a protective measure, vessels must travel very slowly (10 knots) and must be staffed with a whale spotter. If one is seen, the developers must stop pile driving. Construction is also confined to the months of the year when the whales are not in the area.
However, for unknown reasons, whales have recently changed their behavior during the past 8 to 10 years. They now remain in the North Atlantic off the US east coast year-round. The North Atlantic is the only winter foraging area for the North Atlantic Right whale. So there is no time of year when they would not be exposed to the trauma of wind turbine construction. Nonetheless, the permits to build turbines are issued under now incorrect assumptions – specifically, permits are issued for construction during months that previously did not risk whale exposure. The permitting practices have not kept up with the changing occupancy habits of whales in recent years and now pose a great danger to the Right whales.
Compromised Environmental Groups
Linowes obtained a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for a project called Revolution Wind, south of Rhode Island. It contained a section called “Uncertainty or information unknown.” Under this section was listed a litany of possible but inadequately understood impacts, including noise, vibrations, turbulence created by the turbines, what they could do to ocean currents, and how they would impact prey.
While the EA document states that the potential consequences of the impacts are unknown, they say that monitoring changes would give them a greater understanding of the impacts of whale behavior. However, despite admitting they did not know the impacts the turbines would have on marine mammals, they released a contradictory statement:
“At present, BOEM [Bureau of Ocean Energy Management] has no basis to conclude that these impacts would result in significant adverse impacts on any marine mammal species.”
This is a stunning and seemingly purposefully deceptive conclusion, given all the possible ways the Revolution Wind project could affect wildlife, including Right whales. Yet, disturbingly, a similar conclusion was reached by Sunrise Wind, another wind project further south.
Turbines corrupted approval process
Offshore turbines must undergo an approval process required under the U.S. government’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) law. Unfortunately, this process has seemed to put political and monetary interests above endangered species.
A letter obtained through a FOIA request, written on May 13, 2022, by the chief of protected species at NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Marine Fisheries Service states, “Unlike vessel traffic and noise which can be mitigated to some extent [referring to additional noise by turbines, including during construction, and also more vessel traffic to build turbines], oceanographic impacts from installed and operating turbines cannot be mitigated for the 30-year lifespan of the project unless they are decommissioned.”
Linowes believes that BOEM must have been aware of the statement, and NOAA’s Fisheries and BOEM must have discussed it. Yet, despite NOAA’s letter stating that the impacts couldn’t be mitigated, two projects have been approved, and others are in the pipeline.
Wind turbines will kill the whales, not climate change
The developers and the “environmentalists” are determined to move ahead with wind projects despite being aware the impact of the turbines can’t be mitigated and could cause the Right whales to go extinct. And this is despite the fact that the use of wind energy will have only a minor effect on emissions. The environmental impact study for Vineyard Wind says:
“US offshore wind projects would by themselves probably have a limited impact on global emissions and climate change. But they may be significant and beneficial as a component of many actions addressing climate change and integral for fulfilling state plans for climate change.”
It seems the political objective of fulfilling state plans has a higher priority than the survival of an iconic endangered species. U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration plans to build 3 to 4,000 turbines offshore. The turbines will be built anywhere from 10 to 15 to 20 miles offshore, but the closest will be 10 miles.
Lisa points out that doing something about climate change has been promoted as the only way to save the whale. But climate change will not kill the whales, she explains. However, industrializing their habitat by constructing wind turbines will kill the whales. So, to protect the whales from climate change, environmentalists are ready to sign off on theoretically emissions-reducing offshore wind turbines whose construction is likely to kill whales – and drive the critically endangered Right whale to extinction.
Asked what her viewers can do, Linowes says they can be informed and inform their friends. And apply political pressure. Let your president, congress (wo)man, and environmental groups know that their green politics are killing the wildlife they’re supposed to save.
If you would like to contribute financially, the easiest way to donate to the Save Right Whales Coalition is to donate to one of our member organizations:
Make sure to mention that you’d like your donation earmarked to save the North Atlantic Right whale!
Please email Save the Whales here if you’d like to get involved. There are many ways to help, such as attending a protest or participating in a public comment hearing. Also, if you are already fighting to stop offshore wind projects in your state and would like to join their coalition, please let them know, as they are always looking for new member organizations who share their mission to save the Right whales.