Why O’Scanlon feels moratorium on offshore wind could help (but not hurt) industry

Declan O’Scanlon can play politics with the best of them. It’s one of the things that makes the Republican state senator from Holmdel so effective.

He also isn’t afraid to take a stance on controversial issues many politicians attempt to remain neutral on. (He was battling anti-vaxxers long before COVID-19 hit. Following the science, some would say.)

It’s one of the things that makes him so believable.

So, it was a bit of surprise that O’Scanlon seemingly had joined the offshore-wind-is-killing-whales movement — a movement that has virtually no evidence to support its cause.

O’Scanlon, along with Sen. Ed Durr (R-Glassboro), recently introduced a resolution urging the state and federal governments to place an immediate moratorium on all sonar testing and wind turbine mapping in response to the surge of unexplained marine wildlife deaths along the coast of New Jersey.

O’Scanlon told ROI-NJ that the resolution said as much for what it didn’t say as for what it did say.

“I was very specific about what I said in the release,” O’Scanlon said. “I never said there was a definitive connection, because I’ve never seen any evidence that there is. But I’ve never seen any evidence that there isn’t, either.”

That’s why O’Scanlon said he’s calling for a six-month moratorium on sonar work in the oceans.

If the marine deaths continue, he said, then we’ll know the offshore wind industry isn’t the problem.

And, if they stop?

Here’s where it gets interesting: O’Scanlon said that will not necessarily indicate that the offshore wind industry is the issue.

“Correlation and causation are not the same thing,” he said.

O’Scanlon said it will just mean there’s a need for more study.

In other words, O’Scanlon said a moratorium would only rule out the industry, not indict it.

“My point and consistent position has been, ‘We don’t know, but we do know that there is a significant change in the environment out there,’” he said. “Maybe there’s other reasons that are responsible and that it isn’t these activities causing it. But we don’t know.

“So, what is the harm in in taking a pause? If we give it six months, and whales and dolphins continue to wash up on shore, then I think someone can definitively say, ‘It isn’t offshore wind, it’s something else.’”

Like everything around this issue, there is no easy answer.

Numerous studies have shown there is no correlation between the industry and the marine-life deaths.

The fact these types of marine-life deaths have never been connected to the industry previously certainly is worth noting, too.

O’Scanlon gets this. And he said he has had enough conversations with industry officials to believe their position on the issue.

His office, he said, gets plenty of calls from people on both sides of the issue.

“I do understand people’s suspicions about this,” he said. “The increase in deaths has coincided with increased activities.

“Now, are they causing it? I don’t know. But why not take a pause for a few months and see if we continue to have these issues?”

Here is O’Scanlon’s statement on the issue that came in the release detailing his proposed resolution:

“After months of whales and dolphins washing up on our beaches, enough is enough. We cannot ignore the surge in marine life deaths that has occurred while offshore wind project preparation activities have been conducted along the coast.

“While (Gov. Phil Murphy) has stated that ‘There’s no evidence these activities are causing these whale and dolphin deaths,’ he omits that he, and we, simply have no idea what’s causing these tragic deaths. We very well might find evidence that offshore wind activities are contributing to this tragedy. Until we know, we should err on the side of caution.

“Our resolution calls on Gov. Murphy and the federal government to place a moratorium on these projects until scientific studies can be conducted to determine the impact offshore wind activities are having on marine wildlife. These mammals are federally protected and, as legislators, it is our duty to step up and protect our waters.”