Home>Climate>House passes Smith, Van Drew amendments on offshore wind development

Rep. Chris Smith. (Photo: U.S. Congressman Chris Smith).

House passes Smith, Van Drew amendments on offshore wind development

Amendments would require investigations into wind turbines’ adverse impacts

By Joey Fox, March 30 2023 12:38 pm

During a debate on the Lower Energy Costs Act today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved amendments from Reps. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) and Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) that target offshore wind development and require new studies into its adverse effects.

The two amendments come in response to a recent spate of whale and other marine animal deaths along the East Coast, particularly on the Jersey Shore. Many Republicans have blamed the deaths on new offshore wind turbines, though experts believe ship strikes are the more likely cause for many of the deaths.

Both amendments have a similar goal: requiring the U.S. Government Accountability Office to investigate offshore wind farms and issue reports to Congress on their impacts on marine animals, commercial and military vessel traffic, and tourism.

“The offshore wind industrialization approval process has left unaddressed and unanswered numerous serious questions concerning the potentially harmful environmental impact on marine life,” Smith said on the House floor. “With so much at stake – and out of an abundance of caution and concern – a serious, aggressive, and independent analysis on the ocean-altering impact of these projects is absolutely critical.”

“Offshore wind will be the most dramatic change to our Atlantic Coast in United States history, and this amendment is a major victory in ensuring that our New Jersey coastlines are protected from industrialization,” Van Drew said about his amendment.

Both amendments were approved on bipartisan votes, though Smith’s passed by a wider margin (244-189) than Van Drew’s (220-213). Notably, neither drew support from any of New Jersey’s nine Democratic representatives.

The overall Lower Energy Costs Act, which expands American fossil fuel production and rolls back parts of President Joe Biden’s climate agenda, passed the House on a largely party-line 225-204 vote. But that’s probably as far as it will go; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said the bill is “dead on arrival” in his Democratic-controlled chamber.

All New Jersey Democrats voted against it, with Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch) dubbing it the “Polluters Over People Act” and saying it represented a giveaway to the oil industry.

“After making significant progress last year, we simply cannot go back,” Pallone said in a statement. “Fortunately, this bill stands no chance at ever becoming law.”

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