The Biden administration is under pressure from lawmakers and experts calling for an immediate moratorium on offshore wind energy development until its effects, including on military operations, navigation and radar systems, are studied.
Earlier this week, Representative Chris Smith, RN.J., industry stakeholders and experts met with officials from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a top federal watchdog agency, to discuss their concerns about the development of offshore wind. According to Smith — who represents a district along the Atlantic coast that hosts a naval weapons depot and has proposed offshore wind projects — more than an hour of the three-hour meeting was devoted to military strikes.
The GAO recently agreed to investigate the broad effects of offshore wind development after Smith, fellow New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., and several other lawmakers called for a probe. The research will look, among other things, at the impact of wind turbines on military operations and radar.
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“It’s going to affect the marine radar through sonic interference. It’s causing disturbances, shadows,” Smith told Fox News Digital in an interview. “There will be nothing but disturbance. Radar will not be credible. So you will have ships of every size and type – military ships, ocean and freighters, including carrying oil coming into my state for refineries – that could potentially sailing in other ships or even in some of these windmills themselves.”
“The Coast Guard will also be unable to conduct search and rescue, especially in bad weather, because of the gross interference that will take place,” he continued. “There’s also an impact on the Navy’s… Integrated Undersea Surveillance System, and it’s going to disrupt that.”
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The Government Accountability Office informed Representative Chris Smith, RN.J., that it would investigate offshore wind development. (Larry French/Getty Images)
Smith added that wind turbines could ultimately have the effect of blocking the detection of U.S. adversary movements via a submarine.
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He berated the Department of Defense for its handling of the issue and lack of transparency, noting that he has spoken to anonymous defense officials who have told him that wind development is taking priority over national security.
Smith’s meeting with the GAO, meanwhile, comes months after the Navy and Air Force compiled a report in early October showing maps showing large areas of acreage blockade in federal waters near North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. The report characterizes four offshore wind rental areas identified by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) as “highly problematic” and two others as “requiring further investigation.”
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In addition, several studies and analyzes have been published in recent years suggesting that wind turbines can have a significant effect on radar. A 2022 study from the National Academy of Sciences concluded that wind development would lead to “interference with marine radar, which is a critical tool for navigation, collision avoidance, and use in search and rescue missions.”
Finnish and Taiwanese militaries have also expressed concern about the effects offshore wind farms could have on their defense capabilities.
A lift boat near Wainscott, New York, is pictured on December 1, 2022. (Johnny Milano/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
“They’re willing to sacrifice anything for green energy,” Meghan Lapp, the fishing liaison for Rhode Island-based fishing company Seafreeze and one of the participants in Smith’s meeting with the GAO, told Fox News Digital. “I’ve seen national security pushed aside. I’ve seen maritime security pushed aside. I’ve seen domestic food production go overboard. I’ve seen the concerns of coastal businesses and communities pushed aside. “
“Every entity and every single concern — valid concerns, not fabricated, no exaggeration or anything — is just brushed aside. And the answer is what? ‘Well, we have to do this because of climate change.'”
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In 2011, Congress established the Military Aviation and Installation Assurance Siting Clearinghouse, which created a central authority within the Department of Defense to oversee the compatibility of alternative energy projects with military activity.
According to Lapp and Smith, the entity ultimately allayed base commanders’ concerns and consistently supported green energy development.
“Now we have an entire coast that will be weakened by this terrible decision,” Smith said. “I have never been so angry and disappointed in the resignation and silence of the army.”
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As part of its climate agenda, the Biden administration has moved aggressively forward with the rapid development of offshore wind across millions of acres of federal waters, primarily along the East Coast. Shortly after taking office, President Joe Biden outlined goals to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, the most ambitious goal of its kind worldwide.
In May 2021, BOEM approved the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind project 12 miles off the coast of Massachusetts, marking the first-ever approval for large-scale offshore wind. Then, in November 2021, the agency approved the 130-megawatt Southfork Wind project off the coast of New York’s Long Island, its second commercial-scale offshore project.
President Biden points to a wind turbine size comparison chart at a meeting on the federal state partnership for offshore wind implementation on June 23, 2022. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
A number of other proposed offshore wind projects along the Atlantic coast are under development and are in the federal permitting stage. The Biden administration has also leased hundreds of thousands of acres to energy companies and plans future rental sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of California.
“The Department of Defense is committed to protecting U.S. national security interests, including reducing dependence on foreign energy resources and expanding domestic development of offshore wind energy,” Pentagon spokesman Kelly Flynn told Fox News Digital. “The DoD continues to work with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, industry and other stakeholders to identify the best locations for offshore development, as we have done in each call area in the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico.”
“This discussion encompasses impacts to the environment, shipping, fisheries, views and more and includes mitigation strategies to overcome impacts,” Flynn continued. “This is one step in the process and DoD will continue to work with stakeholders to promote compatible offshore wind energy development.”
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“The department has actively participated in similar lease plans for the New York/New Jersey, Gulf of Mexico, California and Oregon coasts,” she said. “In any case, we have been able to find suitable development areas and we expect to do the same in the Central Atlantic.”
Thomas Catenacci is a political writer for Fox News Digital.