Doing Right by Right Whales with a Significant Offshore Wind Energy Development Agreement

Tricia Jedele

CLF has been a longtime champion of renewable energy done right. To this end, we have been working with Deepwater Wind to ensure that the offshore wind project, Deepwater One, proposed for federal waters in Rhode Island Sound moves forward expeditiously, but also in a way that is protective of important habitat areas, avoids user conflicts and ensures the protection of critically endangered species like the North Atlantic right whale.

I am proud and excited to announce today that after years of effort we have reached an agreement with Deepwater Wind, in partnership with Natural Resources Defense Council and National Wildlife Federation, that will reduce the potential impact for injury to North Atlantic right whales from the underwater noise created by some of the site assessment and increased vessel traffic needed to identify the right locations for wind turbines in the RI/MA Wind Energy Area.

Today’s agreement follows on a similar agreement we reached in 2012 regarding Mid-Atlantic wind energy areas. This was a collective effort, developed with input from leading North Atlantic right whale scientific experts, including from the New England Aquarium, and is based on the best available science.

Right whale calf and mother

A new agreement with Deepwater Wind will ensure protections for endangered species like right whales. ©Brian Skerry

There is an urgent need to respond to the threat of climate change. We must find practical solutions that maximize our ability to generate clean energy in responsible ways. Offshore wind is one of those practical solutions. But we also recognize that, to make offshore wind successful, we must protect critical habitat and important underwater resources, avoid user conflicts, and give deliberate effort and attention to endangered marine mammals.

The North Atlantic right whale is a critically endangered species – only around 500 animals are left on the planet. Ironically, they were hunted to near extinction for the oil (a source of fuel and energy) in their heads. Importantly, in April, we saw some of the most significant aggregations of right whales ever documented right here in Rhode Island Sound. Today, the North Atlantic right whale, once a symbol of humankind’s ability to exhaust resources to near extinction, is now the symbol of a partnership with a renewable energy developer to get it right this time.

The presence of environmental concerns and different user interests doesn’t have to block the path forward, as this agreement clearly shows. With good planning, and open dialogue, we can find a way to address climate change, advance this industry of clean energy, and protect important species. This agreement was reached in the spirit of an ocean management approach that New England has been pioneering with the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan, the Massachusetts Ocean Plan, and Regional Ocean Plan – consistent with President Obama’s National Ocean Policy.

The agreement underscores the importance of stakeholders sitting at the table together to craft solutions that allow us to capitalize on everything the ocean has to offer in terms of clean, renewable energy while also protecting our marine resources – including right whales.

Focus Areas

Climate ChangeOceans

Places

Rhode Island

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