Top NJ Dems Sound Alarm Over Wind Projects
Amid multiple lawsuits and continued questions about the costs and impacts of offshore wind projects, New Jersey's top legislative Democrats are now expressing their concerns.
In a joint statement, Senate President Nick Scutari and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin questioned the impacts of wind projects.
"There are still many unanswered questions about the economic impact these projects will have on ratepayers as well as potential impacts to one of our state’s largest economic drivers, tourism at the shore," the legislative leaders said in a statement.
Scutari and Coughlin aimed their criticism at the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, which recently voted to open the application window for the State’s third solicitation for offshore wind capacity.
The senate president and assembly speaker say they are concerned with the "approach" the BPU is taking in speeding the projects along.
Both legislative leaders said the BPU should be able to share the "impacts with the communities affected and the legislature before moving forward with these new offshore projects."
Phil Murphy is behind the rush to wind power
Neither Scutari nor Coughlin offered criticism of Gov. Phil Murphy, but it is Murphy who has been pressuring the board to move quickly to ramp up the number of wind energy projects off the Jersey shore.
On its website, the BPU has the statement, "The BPU supports the clean energy goals of Governor Murphy which target 7,500 MW of offshore wind energy by 2035 and will establish New Jersey as a leader in offshore wind development."
In June, BPU President Joseph Fiordiliso expressed frustration with delays in beginning the first phase of wind development calling them "intolerable."
"Some of the things that are being delayed are indefensible," Fiordiliso ranted.
Murphy praised the recent BPU vote. "Offshore wind constitutes a crucial component of our journey to 100% clean energy by 2035, a benchmark that solidifies our position at the national forefront of climate action," Murphy said in a statement.
Fiordiliso was in lock-step with Murphy. "Today’s actions will not only help us fight the ravages of climate change but represent another investment in bolstering our local union workforce, ensuring our families and communities reap the benefits of our clean energy transition," Fiordiliso said in a statement.
Many questions about wind energy in New Jersey
Developer Orsted North America has been hit with a series of lawsuits and has filed countersuits in an effort to begin construction of the first wind project off the coast of New Jersey.
There remain questions about the impact on New Jersey's vital tourism industry.
In May, Cape May County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution opposed to offshore wind projects and vowed to continue to fight the installation of windmills off the coast.
A report supporting the resolution claims the windmills will cost Cape May County more than $1.1 billion in lost tourism revenue and will have a devastating impact on food service, hospitality, retail, rental housing, and other segments of the local economy.
Some Republican lawmakers and environmental groups have also tried to link an increase in whale and dolphin deaths to wind energy projects, but no scientific link has been established.
Wind energy a likely campaign issue in New Jersey
The entire New Jersey legislature is up for reelection in November. The controversial wind projects have become a campaign issue.
Republican State Sens. Declan O’Scanlon and Ed Durr introduced a measure in April that would place an immediate moratorium on all sonar testing and wind turbine mapping until studies on the impact on marine life could be completed.
GOP members of the legislature were also highly critical of a series of tax breaks given to developer Orsted that were supported by Democrats in the assembly and senate.
Scutari and Coughlin did not mention anything about whale and dolphin deaths in their statement, instead focusing on the cost to taxpayers and the impact on tourism.
Both men did, however, support the tax breaks given to Orsted.
Given the potential impact on the November elections, this may simply be an attempt by democratic leadership to give their members cover.
In reality, there is very little the legislature can do to stop - or slow down - Murphy's fast-paced wind agenda. Murphy controls the BPU and has structured much of the approval process away from the legislature and out of the control of local towns and communities that will be most impacted.