Articles from New Jersey
UNDER SCRUTINY: The U.S. Interior Department is reviewing Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind’s plan for construction and operations.
New Jersey is moving aggressively to become the leader in the fast-growing offshore wind energy industry on the East Coast, but not everyone is blown away by those ambitious plans. While the state's Democratic political leadership is solidly behind a rapid build-out of wind energy projects off the coast — it has set a goal of generating 100% of its energy from clean sources by 2050 — opposition is growing among citizens groups, and even some green energy-loving environmentalists are wary of the pace and scope of the plans.
ATLANTIC CITY — Local officials joined a call for offshore wind development in a virtual event Tuesday morning.
If wind farms can produce clean energy, supplied to millions of customers in coastal metropolitan areas, and also provide immediate and long-lasting jobs, why are some environmental groups and activists asking the government to pump the brakes on legislation?
...debates on merits and impacts [of offshore wind energy development] must be made at the local level; however, during the pandemic, in-person discussion and discourse was rendered impossible. Still, the state and federal government are barreling ahead with these projects despite the concerns of local residents and town officials. The Sweeney/Burzichelli legislation isn’t just a slippery slope, it’s an avalanche of government over-reach. As the letter writers noted, “these bills take away the ability of local government to render decisions that they feel reflect the best interest of the community and replaces it with a process that favors foreign investment.”
New Jersey has approved two giant off-shore wind farms in the biggest single go-ahead to energy creation at sea in the U.S. — but at least one will almost certainly face legal action from opponents. The two projects, Atlantic Shores and Ocean Wind 2, will see a total of 193 wind turbines that reach hundreds of feet into the air built as close as 10.5 miles off the South Jersey coast.
The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance has taken the lead in advocating for the fishing industry. It says a major concern is that fishing vessels could strike one of the massive wind farm turbines in bad weather. In addition, it says the spinning blades interfere with the radar vessels use to find their catch. And fishermen like Gilbert worry that the structures will alter the ocean ecosystem. “We’re racing forward without the proper science to evaluate if this is good or if this is bad,” Gilbert said.
In January, members of the Ocean City Council suggested denying the Danish energy giant Ørsted permission to bring power lines across its jurisdiction as a means of slowing down a massive wind energy project off the coast. That option could be taken off the table under a state bill now on Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk. Some members of City Council are furious, calling the bill an attack on the principles of home rule.
The state Senate and Assembly on Thursday approved a bill giving state regulators the authority to seize property or grant easements for transmission lines carrying electricity from offshore windmills to the power grid, even over local objections. The companion bills, S3926 and A5894, authorize “certain offshore wind projects to construct power lines and obtain real property interests; grants BPU authority to supersede certain local governmental powers upon petition from offshore wind project.”
While the City Council of the City of Ocean City understands the desire of the state to develop alternative sources of energy to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, rushing to accomplish this goal without due process, full disclosure of facts, ample public debate of the environmental impacts and circumventing of the Home Rule Act does not reflect a truly democratic process. All that these bills accomplish is to short circuit the ability of local officials, who know their community the best, the ability to have meaningful input on issues that will significantly affect their communities for minimally the next 25 years.
Environmentalists, commercial fishermen, recreational boaters, labor unions, homeowners, boardwalk businesses, NIMBYs and ratepayer advocates are all circling Orsted, the Dutch wind power company behind what could be one of the largest wind farms in North America. Local, state and federal officials are also starting to feel the heat. Just about everyone involved, including David Hardy, CEO of Orsted US, worries the project could devolve into chaos.
With the state Board of Public Utilities’ anticipated decision on granting approval for a second wind farm off the coast expected next month, Long Beach Island officials met in April with counterparts from Cape May County and state and federal legislators to discuss the negative impacts of offshore wind farms on shore communities. “The Island, as a whole, is against it. The whole coast is against it,” said Surf City Mayor Francis Hodgson, who hosted the virtual meeting last month.
In official comments to the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) submitted July 30, 2018, New York suggested the wind turbines be no closer than 20 miles from shore. This recommendation was based upon an earlier study by BOEM that concluded that 600-foot-high turbines produced a “dominate impact “on the beach view 15 miles offshore. Adjusting for the new 50% taller turbines, the suggested distance from the shore should be 30 miles. In Europe, the closest lease area for these jumbo turbines is 44 miles out. The New York decision begs the question of why lease areas from Maryland to Massachusetts aren’t being rejected on the same merits.
The Atlantic coast contains some of the most productive fisheries in the world. BOEM is supposed to work with fisheries interests to ensure offshore wind development does not adversely affect habitat and the livelihood of fishermen. In fact, in December of last year, the Department of the Interior issued a detailed memo stating that the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act prohibits offshore wind approvals if a project would interfere with fishing. But just a few weeks ago, the administration reversed those findings.
During the protest, Cape May County Commissioner Director Gerald Thornton came out to speak to the attendees. He told them that he was opposed to the wind farm and that he, along with his fellow Commissioners who stood outside with him, would approve a resolution at Tuesday’s meeting opposing wind farms. The resolution was unanimously approved.
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — They could not all go in to the meeting of the Cape May County Commissioners on Tuesday afternoon, but opponents of a planned offshore wind farm knew they were heard when the members of county government came out to them.
This resolution passed unanimously by the Cape May County Commissioner Board urges Orsted, PSEG, and the State of New Jersey to comprehensively and thoughtfully engage community stakeholders to address concerns of the potential detrimental impacts that the Ocean Wind project may cause to the environment, fishing industry, business community, and residents of Cape May County
But in Ocean City and other popular destinations, the threat of climate change is at odds with a perceived threat to tourism. Increasingly vocal opposition is being raised against the construction of offshore wind farms, as shore property owners worry that turbines on the horizon will spoil the views from the beach and discourage tourists from visiting in the summer.
They worry that wind farms with their soaring turbines could disrupt fish habitat, reroute fishing lanes, and force sport anglers farther out to sea. Lackner, of Montauk, N.Y., believes that the farms will narrow the currently wide-open pathways to the vessel he docks at Cape May so often that he calls it his second home. “We’ll have to tow in between turbines while dragging a quarter mile of gear,” Lackner said. “We’ll be passing boats, as our gear drifts. ... It’s not good to jump right into wind in such a big way.”
“If there are not limits placed on utility-scale solar projects, it will consume all of the remaining really great land in New Jersey,” said Susan Payne, executive director of New Jersey’s State Agriculture Development Committee. “I mean, it’s existential at that point.” ...On farms that have already been preserved, states must determine whether landowners can add solar arrays. And on farms that aren’t protected, preservationists could find themselves racing to get there before solar developers do.