NJ Board Votes For New Offshore Wind Projects, Denies Whale Link
TRENTON — The state Board of Public Utilities has voted to open up applications for new offshore wind turbine projects in pursuit of Gov. Murphy's goal to reach 100% clean energy by 2035.
It will be the state's third solicitation for wind projects and the window for applications will be open through June 23. The board's five members unanimously approved the measure at a public meeting Monday.
Gov. Murphy announced last month that the state would accelerate its efforts to have 100% clean energy by 2035. Part of that goal includes reaching 11 GW of wind energy by 2040. The state has so far approved projects reaching a capacity 3.75 GW and this new solicitation could double that amount, according to the NJBPU.
But at least a dozen dead whales have washed up on or have been spotted floating along the New York or New Jersey coastline since December; activists, mayors, and lawmakers concerned about a possible connection between prep work for offshore wind projects have called for a moratorium on all projects until more studies are done.
Joseph Fiordaliso, the board's president, echoed federal agencies, and Gov. Murphy, who have said they've seen no link between the whale deaths and wind prep work.
"We've heard a lot in the past number of weeks and months of whales dying and washing ashore," Fiordaliso said. "They have done autopsies on these whales and have not come to any conclusive decision that it's caused by any activity in the ocean regarding wind turbines."
Andrea Hart, an NJBPU senior program manager, said at the Monday meeting that any successful bid would be required to protect the environment around the project's development.
"New Jersey remains committed to ensuring that natural resources including fish, marine mammals, birds and other wildlife are protected throughout the development and operation of current and future wind projects," Hart said.
The governor applauded the board's decision.
"In addition to safeguarding our communities from the worsening impacts of climate change, this emerging industry will generate thousands of good-paying jobs and economic opportunity across the state," Murphy said.
Monday's decision drew criticism from Clean Ocean Action, an activist group that has called for a moratorium on prep work for offshore wind projects amid the whale deaths.
"It is reckless to be soliciting for more offshore wind development when current projects are moving faster than scientific data can be collected and scrutinized to ensure protection of marine life," COA said in a statement. "Project impacts from previous solicitations are still unknown, not to mention the concern about the grim recent record whale and other mammal deaths."
U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2, has also emerged as a vocal advocate for a complete work moratorium. The representative from New Jersey said in a statement that he would be hosting a local hearing at the Wildwood Convention Center on Mar. 16.