A Letter to the Editor


A new report by the Brown University Climate and Development Lab examines the disinformation used by Green Oceans to argue against offshore wind. (istock)

Editor’s note: The letter below, which was slightly edited, is from Green Oceans in response to a story ecoRI News published Feb. 20. ecoRI News stands by our story and the reporting contained therein. The opinions expressed in this letter are those of Green Oceans.

Dear Editor,

Last week ecoRI published an article about Green Oceans (GO). We believe the article contains several inaccuracies and misquotes members of Green Oceans, presenting their words in a manner that distorts the meaning and intention. This piece attempts to rectify some of the more obvious errors in a point-counterpoint format. We appreciate ecoRI’s willingness to publish our corrections. Our organization would like to create a safe, non-judgmental dialogue about the proposed wind farms. We don’t claim to have all of the answers, but we do want to raise questions and introduce relevant science that might broaden our understanding of the issues.

ecoRI article: Marine biologists do not support Bill Thompson’s statement that offshore wind facilities may threaten codfish stocks.

GO: Marine biologists from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warn against the impact of offshore wind development on codfish stocks. In a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), NOAA writes, “Based on our Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s fisheries science expertise and supporting peer-reviewed publications, this project [South Fork Wind] has a high risk of population-level impacts on Southern New England Atlantic cod.” BOEM ignored this warning and approved the project regardless (Dlouhy, 2022).

ecoRI: NOAA has not approved authorizations to “take” any marine mammals incidental to any offshore wind activities.

GO: NOAA has authorized offshore wind developers to “take” 122 marine mammals and to harass a total of 99,770. According to the MMPA, the term take means “to harass, hunt, capture, or kill … any marine mammal.” These numbers cover just the authorizations recently approved.

ecoRI: Marine biologists do not support the statement that offshore wind industry activities may kill whales.

GO: A NOAA scientist warned BOEM that offshore wind development will threaten the survival of the North Atlantic right whale population. Activities associated with construction and operation, particularly underwater sound, can threaten whale survival (for review, see Arcangeli, 2023). Anthropogenic sounds can mask a whale’s ability to communicate and socialize, will diminish their overall food supply and their ability to locate food sources, heighten stress, and decrease reproduction rates.

ecoRI: The article suggests that no marine scientist supports the idea that offshore wind industry high-resolution geophysical (HRG) surveys off the Eastern seaboard could harm marine mammals or may be related to the recent spate of whale deaths.

GO: In response to Ørsted’s request to “take” several marine mammals for their high-resolution geophysical surveys back in 2020, a coalition of environmental groups, led by the National Resources Defense Council, wrote NOAA, protesting the risk to the North Atlantic right whales (Jasny, 2020). The letter states, “North Atlantic Right Whales are particularly prone to vessel strike given their slow speeds, their occupation of waters near shipping lanes, and the extended time they spend near the water’s surface. Some types of anthropogenic noise have been shown to induce sub-surface positioning in North Atlantic right whales, increasing the risk of vessel strike at relatively moderate levels of exposure. It is possible that geophysical surveys could produce the same effects, and therefore be treated conservatively.”

ecoRI: Green Oceans provided the quote, “absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence,” in reference to the lack of direct links between whale deaths and offshore wind surveys. ecoRI misinterprets this quote as, “If you have looked and don’t find anything it does not mean there is nothing there.”

GO: A more accurate interpretation of the quote would be, “If you don’t look, you won’t find anything.” It matters where you look and how you look. On their Marine Mammal Stranding reports, NOAA only asks about gunshot wounds, vessel strikes, fishery interaction, ingestion (of gear), and the likelihood of “other” human interactions. They do not ask, “Proximity to survey vessels,” “Known survey activity in the past two weeks?” or any such information that might provide a correlation between the strandings and the wind surveys.

ecoRI: The article criticizes Green Oceans for implying that “NOAA was hiding the reasons for the unexplained 60% of whale deaths not attributed to human interaction.”

GO: Green Oceans did not accuse NOAA of “hiding” the causes behind the unknown deaths. Green Oceans censures NOAA for misleading the public by continuously stating that vessel strikes and gear entanglements cause a majority of whale deaths. They have not determined the cause of 60% of whale deaths, so no matter how high the incidence of known vessel strikes or gear entanglements, these particular interactions do not currently explain the majority of deaths.

ecoRI: The law firm Eubanks submitted comments on behalf of Green Oceans to the Revolution Wind’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). ecoRI implied the law firm inappropriately focused on whales.

GO: Eubanks Legal, a public interest law firm dedicated to upholding environmental protection laws, the Endangered Species Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, submitted a response to Revolution Wind’s Incidental Take Authorization Request to harm marine mammals and to BOEM’s Draft Strategy for North Atlantic Right Whales and Offshore Wind. Considering these two documents specifically concern marine mammals and whales, the firm’s comments focus on whales appropriately. The firm did not submit comments to Revolution Wind’s DEIS.

ecoRI: The article claims that marine biologists do not support Bill Thompson’s statement that offshore wind facilities may threaten biodiversity.

GO:  Numerous studies from Europe published by marine biologists demonstrate that offshore wind farms increase the risk of biodiversity loss by introducing invasive filter feeders (Negro, 2022), decreasing plankton diversity (Wang, 2022), and driving marine mammals away from fertile habitats, putting their survival at risk (Huang, 2022).

ecoRI: Green Oceans consists of six members, four of whom own houses in Little Compton, one from Tiverton, and one with a Boston address.

GO: Green Oceans has six members on its board of directors with these details. The actual membership includes approximately 200 with an executive committee of 14 people. The organization’s members live throughout the New England region, from Westport, Mass., to Saunderstown, R.I.

ecoRI: “One expert who read the white paper called it “total horseshit” and “shoddy scholarship.”

GO: ecoRI did not disclose the name or the qualifications of their “expert,” yet named the president of Green Oceans, Lisa Knight, without mentioning that she holds a medical degree (M.D.) and a Ph.D. in neuroscience, both from Yale University.

ecoRI: Wind farm developments will not affect ocean currents and Green Oceans’ concern about the interaction between offshore wind complexes and ocean dynamics represents a devious distortion of the literature.

GO: BOEM’s own study acknowledges the planned wind farms will slow ocean currents, diminish wave height, and alter temperature stratification. These effects can “destabilize and fundamentally change shelf sea systems” (Dorell, 2022) and extend beyond the boundaries of the wind complex (Platis, 2018). Wind farms in general can affect local climate (Miller, 2018) and even alter vegetation (Diffendorfer, 2022).  

ecoRI: Dwight McNeill accuses Green Oceans of using a special interest playbook, always requesting more time and more study.

GO: The development of 22 million acres (8%) of the Atlantic continental shelf is unprecedented. Even scientists from the United Kingdom warn against embarking on such a massive project on the continental shelf, a uniquely fertile marine ecosystem, without understanding the environmental consequences to a greater extent (Dorell, 2022). Our environmental laws emphasize the “precautionary principle.” A single whale’s death should have halted this development. We now have a total of 440 unusual whale deaths since 2016-17, when the offshore wind companies began their surveys along the Atlantic coast. Green Oceans argues, and will continue to argue, that we need to stop activity, investigate the correlation, and proceed with caution.

ecoRI: No evidence supports Bill Thompson’s statement that wind complexes will reduce plankton.

GO: Scientific evidence confirms that marine industrialization reduces plankton counts (Malerba, 2019). The Revolution Wind DEIS calculates the installation of the cable alone will kill over 8.5 billion zooplankton and 1 billion fish eggs. Recent studies from the North Sea demonstrate the presence of wind turbines decreases phytoplankton count by as much as 8% in some areas (Slavik, 2018), redistributes plankton, and deoxygenates lower-level water (Daewel, 2022). According to NASA, phytoplankton “thrive along coastlines and continental shelves” and “any change in their productivity could have a significant influence on biodiversity, fisheries and the human food supply, and the pace of global warming [emphasis added].”

ecoRI: Timmon Roberts accuses Green Oceans of casting aspersions without supporting evidence. 

GO: The white paper includes 156 references. GO backs up each scientific claim with peer-reviewed scientific studies.

ecoRI: Timmon Roberts accuses Green Oceans of disrespect and of assuming, “we know better.”

GO: Drawing attention to evidence that contradicts a belief system can seem disrespectful by challenging a person’s self-identity. We mean no disrespect by alerting the public to misleading claims by the wind industry, exposing gaps in our current knowledge, and directing the public to recent scientific publications that reveal harmful environmental impacts of offshore wind developments. Green Oceans hopes those groups who want to intervene in the ocean at a colossal scale will have the humility to try to understand the environmental impact first, will not presume the climate crisis justifies destructive industrialization, and will assume the “precautionary principle” in the face of unusual whale deaths.

ecoRI: State Rep. Michelle McGaw stated that “Lisa [Knight] is under the impression that everyone is bought and sold.”

GO: Wind developers have donated millions of dollars to environmental groups, universities, and research organizations. SouthCoast Wind (aka Mayflower) alone has donated $115 million. Conflicts of interest arise when the recipients of these funds are called upon to sanction the wind developments and deny the environmental impacts, such as the Sierra Club, Woods Hole Institute, and the New England Aquarium. We would prefer to have organizations, scientists, and research institutions that have not received funds from the wind industry or their affiliates to opine on any potential negative consequences. At the very least, organizations and researchers should disclose funding that could potentially be viewed as a conflict of interest.

ecoRI: Rep. McGaw does not worry about the negative impacts of offshore wind developments because “We have good processes in place to review [the projects].”

GO: Considering the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has a mandate to fast-track offshore wind development, the process may not be as safe as McGaw assumes. BOEM’s history of ignoring and disregarding NOAA scientists should undermine McGaw’s confidence in the review process. Two separate incidents deserve highlighting. BOEM ignored NOAA’s significant concern about offshore wind development on both cod and the North Atlantic Right Whale.

ecoRI News has put its might behind the for-profit powerhouses on this issue. The offshore wind industry and large financial institutions anticipate monetary gain from these projects and have already invested heavily in their success. This is a David and Goliath fight. The industry would prefer for Green Oceans to remain silent. We thank ecoRI News for giving us a voice.


Lisa Quattrocki Knight, M.D., Ph.D.

The author is a member of Green Oceans.


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  1. Thank you for publishing this. It is important that journalists have standards to build trust. When you look past the headlines and into objective data you can see the harm the wind farms cause. Even NOAA admitted that they won’t effect climate change. Just because government regulators with a financial stake in wind energy quickly decide that the deaths are not related to the seismic tests shouldn’t keep us from digging a bit deeper. There is no category for collisions caused but auditory injury, hearing loss etc. It’s too important to protect the endangers species. Signed, an Envirometalist Questioning Wind Power. Follow the money.

  2. I’m glad ecoRI News had the integrity to publish this letter to the editor. It seems the original article from ecoRI was poorly researched. Green Oceans has the studies to back up their position. Offshore wind does not appear to be a good thing for the ocean, and I don’t belive we should sacrifice biodiversity for industrialization. I’d like to see the climate conversation focus more on reducing consumption and energy use.

  3. It seems to me that anyone who thinks for herself can readily see the difference between the factual, conscientious level of discourse provided by Dr. Knight as compared with that of the original story’s author, Ms. Lhowe. It is good ecoRI published this rebuttal, but disappointing that it claims to “stand by [its] story.” For that is what it is, a fictional story, replete with misinformation and disparaging mischaracterizations—featuring an unnamed “expert” who uses language such as “horseshit” to deride the findings of a group of researchers who, after in-depth study, come to conclusions about offshore wind that differ from his (or her) own.

  4. Dear Mr. Gerritt,
    I want to correct the record. We have never accepted funds from the fossil fuel industry, anyone associated with the fossil fuel industry, or any corporate interests. EcoRI, unfortunately, edited out the portion of my letter that clarifies this misconception. I also suggest you might want to use the hyperlinks I provide to support the facts in the letter. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to email our organization at [email protected].

  5. As a financial supporter of EcoRI, I was gravely disappointed last week when you published Mary Lhowe’s February 20 broadside against the environmental group Green Oceans and their concerns about the potential harm caused by wind farms off the Rhode Island coast. Only two weeks before, Ms. Lhowe had had outlined many of the issues the group had originally raised in a series of January editorials in EastBayRI, although without mentioning them by name, and backed up those concerns with the comments of marine experts.

    In the February 6 piece, Ms. Lhowe stated, “But WITHOUT EXCEPTION [my emphasis], when scientists and fisheries experts are asked about the possible long-term consequences of building a city of wind turbines out in the sea, they all say: we just don’t know.”

    Then, on February 20, she wrote that the questions raised by Green Oceans and the data they had presented was “causing alarm and anger from oceanographers, environmental regulators, and climate activists who say the group’s arguments are WRONG, MISLEADING [again, my emphasis], and tainted with negative innuendo, false linkages, and guilt by association.”

    Is that what you call objective environmental reporting?

    Later, in that article, Ms Lhowe quoted Representative Michelle McGaw as stating “Green Oceans members ‘are distrustful of information that is not supportive of their point of view. Lisa [Knight] is under the impression that everyone is bought and sold.’” Judging from way Ms. Lhowe’s reporting shifted from objective to biased and personally vituperative within the space of two weeks, one can only conclude that if not everyone is bought and sold, EcoRI may well be.

    Climate change is real and the environmental damage and the species extinction it is causing continues to accelerate, but that does not mean we should build a massive wind farm that might further damage the existing ocean ecosystem and marine life with very little benefit in regard to actually limiting carbon emissions, a critical issue which Ms. Lhowe never explored. That is not a rational response to a crisis, but an hysterical one, fueled by the interests of big money, and ironically, most likely, big oil and gas!

    It makes me think back to the days after 9/11 when Christy Whitman, the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, famously told New Yorkers that “the air was safe to breathe” around Ground Zero. As we all know now, it was not, but the federal government was anxious to get Wall Street up and running and life back to normal. https://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/03/nyregion/public-misled-on-air-quality-after-911-attack-judge-says.html

    So those brave first responders, thousands of them, worked clearing that site for months without appropriate protective gear. When they first started getting sick, their claims that their illnesses were due to toxic exposure were dismissed by public officials, scientists, and the media alike. How wrong were they? Researchers have identified more than 60 types of cancer and about two dozen other conditions that are linked to Ground Zero exposures. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/health-effects-of-9-11-still-plague-responders-and-survivors/

    Back then, when a few courageous scientists, journalists, and even some public officials raised concerns about the safety of the air and dust, they were personally discredited and silenced. https://truthout.org/video/bushs-epa-hid-health-risks-from-toxic-dust-at-ground-zero-and-thousands-died/. As of today, more people have died from their exposure to the toxic air and dust at Ground Zero than in the 9/11 terrorist attack!! And that is largely due to the lies of US public officials.

    The old tactic of discrediting truth tellers was used years before by Exxon to delegitimize the predictions by its own scientists, beginning in the late 1970s, of calamitous global warming due to fossil fuel emissions by 2000. https://www.pbs.org/video/the-power-of-big-oil-part-one-denial-redxh6/
    We could have averted the current crisis decades ago, if big energy companies had not gone on a major disinformation campaign!

    If we are to successfully address climate change, we must listen to contrary views and not attack highly informed people who ask valid, if disturbing questions and cite inconvenient truths. I have offered the Ground Zero example to show the disastrous consequences when this has been done. I have also provided documentation of how Big Oil used disinformation to discredit the findings of its own top scientists. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2023/01/harvard-led-analysis-finds-exxonmobil-internal-research-accurately-predicted-climate-change/#:~:text=The%20researchers%20report%20that%20Exxon,would%20lead%20to%20dangerous%20warming.

    Let’s not do it again, especially on a platform dedicated to promoting the environmental health of our beautiful ocean state! We shouldn’t be arguing, we should be fact-finding, discussing and informing, and supporting experts attempting to develop a cohesive carbon neutral energy plan not just for this country, but the world.

  6. I support the work of ecoRI and their balanced reporting on this issue and other topics to support environment justice.

    Lisa Quattrocki’s latest screed in the Sakonnet Times, “Don’t short circuit our environmental laws”, has upped the ante on the whale death issue to now assert that the level of stress caused by wind farms and the monitoring of whales “could potentially drive the whales to extinction”. Meanwhile, the New York Times in an article on February 28, 2023, “”Why 23 Dead Whales Have Washed up on the East Coast Since December”, cited that NOAA and the Marine Mammal Commission that “there is no evidence that this is true” that wind farms cause deaths of whales. This whale death issue has been promulgated for a long time by opponents to offshore wind energy.

    Quattrocki also states that environmental protection laws have been circumvented by federal agencies. This issue has also been litigated for a long time, including by Green Ocean’s law firm, Eubanks & Associates from Washington D.C. This firm, according to their website, has been to court many times, including the Supreme Court, in defense of plaintiffs who oppose projects that may “threaten the environment.” They list the following case as an example of their success to defend the environment: Public Employees V Hopper (827. F3d 1077) D.C. District Court (2016). This case is an appeal of a district court’s ruling on plaintiffs’ contention that “the government violated half a dozen federal statutes in allowing Cape Wind’s project to move through the regulatory approval process.” On March 14, 2014, the district court rejected almost all of these claims and granted partial summary judgment to the government agencies. In the appeal in 2016, from the same lawyers, the appeals court agreed with the district court on most matters. For example, on the issue of the impact assessment of geological hazards (not being sufficient), the court agrees that it could have been more complete, but rules that “We will not, however, vacate Cape Wind’s lease or other regulatory approvals based on this NEPA violation.”

    It may be instructive to review the the Cape Wind case and its relevance to the Revolution Wind project. In 2017, the New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/19/us/offshore-cape-wind-farm.html reported that after “16 years — and $100 million of his own money — Mr. Gordon, the leader of Cape Wind, has pulled the plug, stymied by endless litigation and a series of financial and political setbacks that undermined Cape Wind’s viability”. Ian Bowles, the then secretary of energy and environmental affairs under former governor Deval Patrick, stated that “The project unfortunately demonstrated that well-funded opposition groups can effectively use the American court system to stop even a project with no material adverse environmental impacts.” ”

    So, who were the well-funded opposition groups? It was led by Senator Ted Kennedy and William I. Koch, a billionaire industrialist who made his fortune in fossil fuels and brother of Charles G. and David H. Koch, who have underwritten conservative causes. According to the article, Mr. Koch told CommonWealth magazine in 2013 that “his strategy against Cape Wind was to “delay, delay, delay… The alliance raised and spent $40 million doing just that, repeatedly challenging legal rulings that favored Mr. Gordon.” Senator Kennedy’s nephew, Robert Kennedy Jr., wrote an opinion piece at the time to urge Congress to make the waters in front of the Kennedy home in Hyannis a national park.

    In inflation adjusted dollars, the $140 million spent on delaying, and indeed killing the project, would amount to $200 million today. No renewable electricity was produced. The waters off Nantucket are free of the sight of wind farms. This is deja vu “all over again” with Green Oceans using the tried and true playbook of wind farm opponents to keep the waters off their homes in Warren’s Point, Little Compton, pristine for private purposes, but unavailable for a critically important public need to mitigate climate change through wind energy.

  7. Many thanks to Lisa Knight and her colleagues at Green Oceans, as well as to Marisa Bartolucci and the many other thoughtful commenters who have exposed this highly inaccurate and poorly researched article for what it is, a story, and a bad one at that.

  8. Whatever happened to civility in journalism? Green Ocean has some legitimate concerns about the potential ecological damage that might ensue from offshore wind. One would think that you were on the same side but I guess that’s not true based on your response to their concerns.
    When looking at any offshore wind project I can’t help referring to Block Island Wind. BIW was supposed to be a demonstration project. If so it only demonstrated how politicians drove a project to further enrich a hedge fund, to the tune of $390,000,000 (that’s the over market price that RI ratepayers are being asked to pay). In early 2020 the transmission cables were exposed and had to be reburied. This after the Deepwater Wind project manager, in 2015, assured a Block Island group of concerned citizens that “the possibility of cable failure was almost zero”. PS: Deepwater Wind was bought by Orsted.
    I highly recommend reading “A Might Wind” by Kevin Gray (2018). You can Google it, or better yet DuckDuckGo it. While wind developers portray themselves as saving the world, the truth is that they are just businessmen who will say anything to make a sale. So, as always, buyer beware. The buyers in this case, Green Ocean, are entitled to know what they are getting without being mistreated.

  9. On Dec. 20 the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) — an endangered species advocacy group with 1.7 million members and supporters — sent a letter to 50 Democratic senators, warning them that offshore wind development might put North Atlantic right whales in danger. The letter was sent after a last-minute provision was added to the fiscal year 2023 omnibus spending bill, which would allow lobster fisheries to avoid stricter environmental regulations. The letter said:

    “Without conservation measures to protect right whales from entanglements, this legislation will likely mean that all offshore wind development along the Atlantic seaboard will have to cease operation in order for NOAA Fisheries to meet its obligations under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act to ensure that the right whale population does not decline even further towards extinction,” the CBD wrote.

    Hopefully more environmental groups will come to realize that we can not save the planet by destroying it. In the ’70 environmentalist got in front of the harpoons that were killing 30,000 whales/year. They stopped whale hunts. The International Whaling Commission passed a ban on commercial whaling in 1986. It was a major success for the environmental movement and the whales. Now environmental groups have become PR people for industrial energy.

    Prof Bob Watson, one of the world’s most eminent environmental scientists and currently chair of an intergovernmental panel on biodiversity that said that the “destruction of nature is as dangerous as climate change.”

    Said Jennifer Jacquet, a professor of environmental studies at New York University. “But we know that even in the face of a shifting climate, direct exploitation remains the largest factor affecting aquatic animals.”

    It makes no sense to increase disturbance to whales when they are suffering through an unusual mortality event. Whales as a keystone species are the canary in the coal mine. As they go, so do we. That in the effort to save the climate and continuance of business as usual, we are destroying the environment.

    The proponents of offshore wind farms accuse us of using the whales to stop industrialization of our coastal waters, I say the whales are using us to stop the destruction of their only home.
    Save the Whales!

  10. The very first rebuttal point cites a news story that is based on an unpublished letter from NOAA (Dlouhy 2022; https://phys.org/news/2022-12-scientists-atlantic-farm.html) that can’t be read, let alone investigated for accuracy. If GO is attempting to discredit the idea that they are using a scattershot playbook of pseudoscience in an attempt to exhaust earnest debate, this was not the way to start this letter.

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