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Anna Paulina Luna to feds: Study dangers of offshore wind turbines

U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna and her Republican congressional colleagues want to know more about the risks associated with offshore wind turbines.

Luna, along with every member of the Florida Republican delegation, signed onto a letter sent Friday to the comptroller general of the U.S. Government Accountability Office requesting a sweeping study into the effects of the turbines in the Gulf of Mexico and south Atlantic Ocean on military readiness, endangered species, tourism and fishing — among other areas.

The letter requesting the study is part of the Republican delegation’s effort to halt any potential turbine construction off of Florida’s coasts, Luna wrote in an emailed statement.

“It goes without saying that these ugly and ineffective turbines ... pose untold dangers to our state’s coastal communities,” said Luna, a first-term member of Congress from St. Petersburg. “People travel from around the world to see our pristine beaches — not windmills. My Florida Republican colleagues and I are committed to ensuring that no turbines are placed off Florida’s coasts, and we look forward to seeing this study’s conclusive support for protecting our home from wind development.”

The correspondence follows a move earlier this year from Luna to slow down wind turbine construction in the Gulf of Mexico. She sponsored an amendment that would have prevented any new turbines from being built until the comptroller general published a report on the effects of the turbines.

That amendment passed and was attached to the Lower Energy Costs Act, a sweeping Republican-led energy bill, which cleared the House in March. However, the measure is unlikely to become law because Democrats control the Senate, and President Joe Biden has said he would veto it.

But Luna’s letter will help ensure the study gets done, law or no law, Luna spokesperson Edie Heipel said, noting Arkansas U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, the chairperson of the House Committee on Natural Resources, also signed it.

“She made a promise on the amendment, and she’s securing it ... with this letter,” Heipel wrote in a text message.

Biden has made expanding American wind energy capability a key part of his environmental and economic agenda. In February, his administration announced plans to conduct an offshore wind lease sale in three areas of the Gulf of Mexico — two near Texas and one near Louisiana. The construction efforts are a part of Biden’s push to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. (One gigawatt is enough to power 100 million LED bulbs, according to the Department of Energy.)

Proponents of offshore wind energy argue the energy is clean and renewable, and the construction of the turbines attracts jobs to the region. Detractors say the turbines can be noisy and destructive to the local environment. Offshore oil drilling is against Florida law.

Douglas Nowacek, a professor at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, noted that numerous wind turbines sit off the coast of Europe, and have for nearly two decades. Much is known about their impact on fishing and certain marine species’ behavior. However noisy their construction may be, harmful noise effects can be mitigated somewhat by modern building techniques, he said.

However, little is known about those turbines’ effect on large whales, because relatively few species of baleen whales inhabit the areas near the European turbines, he said.

Some conservatives have drawn a connection between the turbines that have been built off of America’s Atlantic coast and a spate of recent whale deaths. But Nowacek, who studies acoustics, engineering and marine mammals, said those deaths were not related to the wind turbines.

“There is no connection whatsoever that’s been demonstrated between the offshore wind activities and any of those whale deaths,” Nowacek said.

Published to Tampa Bay Times.

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