More than two years after a deadline for Gov. Chris Christie and New Jersey's Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to implement an offshore wind program, the initiative still has not begun.

NJ Sen. Pres. Steve Sweeney (D) (Kevin McArdle, Townsquare Media NJ)

The state's top legislative Democrat, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford), was joined Thursday by a leading environmentalist in blasting the Republican governor and the BPU for the delay.

"Three years ago, we took a great step forward for renewable energy, jobs and economic growth here in New Jersey," said Sweeney. "We enacted legislation that was meant to create up to 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind to be developed off our coasts. It allowed us to finally tap into the potential of our offshore wind and become a leader in this emergent technology."

"But three years later," said Sweeney, "almost nothing has come to pass. That is unacceptable."

A new report by Environment New Jersey reveals the state has the potential to reap huge benefits from the development of offshore wind. The study claims that if state and federal officials commit to continued progress in launching New Jersey's offshore wind industry, the state could reduce global warming pollution by an amount equivalent to the carbon pollution produced by more than 171,000 passenger vehicles.

"New Jersey has tremendous potential for offshore wind, but the clock is ticking down for New Jersey to act," said Doug O'Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. "New Jersey can't be a national leader in offshore wind if we never build turbines. We urge Gov. Christie to move offshore wind forward."

The report also shows that offshore wind energy has the potential to reduce 469 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions and 1,093 tons of sulfur dioxide, which cause acid rain and soot.

"Unfortunately, we are still waiting three years later for the BPU to implement an offshore wind program in New Jersey," said state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Northfield). "Every year we have to have the same press conference. It feels like Groundhog Day."

According to O'Malley, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has already moved ahead with leases for offshore wind in other East Coast states, and is poised to move forward for an auction for New Jersey's offshore leases in the next few months.

"The state cannot continue to remain idle on these important projects and allow wind energy investors to leave New Jersey," said Whelan. "It is time to act now."

The BPU did not respond to a request seeking comment.