Progressive group responds to Harris’ whale remarks

SALISBURY – The Lower Shore Progressive Caucus released a statement on Jan. 24 in response to Congressman Andy Harris (R-1) Jan. 19 press release, in which he called for a moratorium on windmill construction following the death on Assateague Island of a beached whale.

“Despite the misleading statement by Congressman Andy Harris, there is no evidence indicating off-shore wind is responsible for the whale death,” the caucus said.

The Ørsted company conducted offshore surveys last year related to a proposed array of windmills off the Ocean City coast.

“I am calling for an immediate moratorium on windmill construction and related underwater geotechnical testing until it is definitively proven that this construction and testing are not the cause of the repeated whale deaths,” Rep. Harris wrote. “NOAA has offered zero evidence that this construction, including geotechnical testing, is not the cause of death.”

The offshore wind industry is subjected to stringent levels of environmental regulations for marine mammals and protected species. Every aspect of offshore wind, from surveying to construction to operations, is reviewed by both federal and state agencies, and subject to protective conditions, including vessel speeds, seasonal restrictions for construction activities, and mandatory protected species observers.

At a teleconference with journalists on Jan. 18, the deputy chief for permits and conservation with National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, Benjamin Laws said, “I want to be unambiguous: There is no information supporting that any of the equipment used in support of offshore wind development could directly lead to the death of a whale.”

The LSPC statement continued, “It is clear that Congressman Harris is so concerned about the success of offshore wind, because it would have a direct detriment to the oil and gas coalitions that fund his campaigns. During the 2022 cycle alone, Congressman Harris received over $28,000 in campaign donations from various oil and gas groups. To the people of the Eastern Shore, it is very clear that Congressman Harris is more concerned with lining his pockets than providing long-lasting economic opportunity for his constituents.”

LSPC Chair Jared Schablein said, “The truth is, that in no case has a whale been found to have been killed by offshore wind activity. Local progressives are committed to continuing our steadfast support for offshore wind because these projects will fight the climate crisis, establish local energy sources, and raise our area out of poverty with good paying jobs.”

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