Biden admin under fire for offshore wind impacts on military operations

The Biden administration is facing pressure from lawmakers and experts who are calling for an immediate moratorium on offshore wind development until its effects, including on military operations, navigation and radar systems, are studied.

Earlier this week, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., industry stakeholders and experts met with officials from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a top federal watchdog agency, to discuss their concerns about offshore wind development. According to Smith — who represents a district along the Atlantic coast home to a naval weapons depot and where offshore wind projects have been proposed — more than an hour of the three-hour meeting was devoted to military impacts.

The GAO recently agreed to investigate the wide-ranging 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 investigation will look, in part, into wind turbines’ impact on military operations and radar.

‘It will impact marine radar through sonic interference. It causes disruptions, shadowing,’ Smith told Fox News Digital in an interview. ‘There’s going to be nothing but disruption. Radar will not be credible. So, you’ll have ships of every size and variety — military ships, ocean and cargo ships, including carrying oil coming into my state for refineries — that potentially could run into other ships or into even some of these windmills themselves.’

‘The Coast Guard, too, will not be able to do search and rescue, particularly in bad weather, because of the gross interference that will happen,’ he continued. ‘There’s also an impact on the Navy’s … Integrated Undersea Surveillance System, and it will interfere with that.’

Smith added that wind turbines could ultimately have the effect of blocking detection of U.S. adversaries’ movement via submarine.

He blasted the Department of Defense for its handling of the issue and lack of transparency, noting he has spoken with anonymous defense officials who have told him wind development is being prioritized over national security.

Smith’s meeting with the GAO, meanwhile, comes months after the Navy and Air Force assembled a report in early October with maps showing large swaths of acreage blocked off in federal waters near North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. The report characterizes four offshore wind lease areas proposed by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) as ‘highly problematic’ and two others as ‘requiring further study.’

In addition, various studies and analyses have been published in recent years, suggesting wind turbines could pose a significant effect on radar. A 2022 study from the National Academy of Sciences concluded wind development would create ‘interference with marine vessel radar, which is a critical instrument for navigation, collision avoidance, and use in search and rescue missions.’

Finnish and Taiwanese military brass have also expressed concerns about the effects offshore wind farms could have on their defense capabilities.

‘They’re willing to sacrifice anything for green energy,’ Meghan Lapp, the fisheries 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 have seen national security overridden. I’ve seen maritime safety overridden. I’ve seen domestic food production overridden. I’ve seen concerns of coastal businesses and communities overridden.’

‘Every single entity and every single concern — valid concerns, not made up, not hyperbole or anything — are just overridden. And the answer is what? ‘Well, we need to do this because of climate change.’’

In 2011, Congress established the so-called Military Aviation and Installation Assurance Siting Clearinghouse, which created a central authority within the Department of Defense to oversee alternative energy projects’ compatibility with military activities.

According to Lapp and Smith, the entity has ultimately overridden base commanders’ concerns and consistently backed green energy development.

‘Now, we have an entire coast that’s going to be weakened by this terrible decision,’ Smith said. ‘I’ve never been more angry and disappointed in the military’s acquiescence and silence.’

As part of its climate agenda, the Biden administration has aggressively moved forward with rapid offshore wind development 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 large-scale offshore wind approval. Then, in November 2021, the agency approved the 130-megawatt Southfork Wind project off the coast of Long Island, New York, the second commercial-scale offshore project.

A number of other proposed offshore wind projects along the Atlantic coast are under development and in the federal permitting stage. The Biden administration has also leased hundreds of thousands of acres to energy corporations and plans future lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of California.

‘The Department of Defense is committed to protecting American national security interests, which includes reducing reliance on foreign energy sources and expanding domestic offshore wind energy development,’ Pentagon spokesperson 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 every call area in the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico.’

‘This discussion includes impacts to the environment, shipping, fishing, viewshed and more and includes mitigation strategies to overcome the impacts,’ Flynn continued. ‘This is one step in the process and DoD will continue to collaborate with the stakeholders in order to promote compatible offshore wind energy development.’

‘The Department has been an active participant in similar leasing plans off the coasts of New York/New Jersey, the Gulf of Mexico, California and Oregon,’ she said. ‘In each case, we’ve been able to find suitable areas for development, and we expect to do the same in the central Atlantic.’

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