Offshore Wind Enemies in New Jersey Gather Their Strength Legally and Politically

OCEAN CITY, NJ (AP) — Opponents of offshore wind power projects in New Jersey are joining forces legally and politically as they seek to stifle the fledgling industry.

Over the past week, three resident groups have sued New Jersey over a key approval of its first planned wind farm; the research arm of Congress has agreed to study the impact of offshore wind on the environment and other areas; and lawmakers in the two counties most affected by wind farms have stepped up efforts to block the projects.

Save Long Beach Island, Defend Brigantine Beach and Protect Our Coast NJ filed an appeal Friday in New Jersey State Superior Court that the Ocean Wind I project complies with state coastal management rules.

The project is New Jersey’s first, and a US subsidiary of Danish wind developer Orsted could begin construction this year if the remaining approvals are obtained.

The appeal follows a decision by the investigative arm of Congress, the Congressional Accountability Office, to study the impact of offshore wind on the environment and other areas – something opponents have long wanted .

Bruce Afran, an attorney for the groups, said the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection “recognized that wind turbines would destroy marine habitat, compress the seabed, severely damage marine communities, compromise corridors of migration of endangered marine mammals, would cause commercial fishing stocks to decline and harm the economy of beaches.”

“Yet the state persists in the bizarre belief that this massive engineering project will not harm our state’s coastal zone, one of the East Coast’s most important marine communities and the heart of the tourism industry. $47 billion from New Jersey,” he added.

The DEP declined to comment, and the state attorney general’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Jeanne Fox, former head of DEP, the State Board of Public Utilities and former regional head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, called the lawsuit a “delaying tactic”.

“A lot of environmental studies have been done regarding offshore wind, for this specific Ocean Wind project and in general,” she said. “The biggest threat to ocean habitat, marine mammals and fish is the climate crisis. Offshore wind will reduce the need to burn more fossil fuels.”

The project would build 98 wind turbines about 15 miles (24 kilometers) off the coasts of Ocean City and Atlantic City. This is the first of three offshore wind projects to receive approval in New Jersey so far, with several more expected in the coming years.

Afran cited numerous sections of the April DEP decision on Ocean Wind I acknowledging potential negative impacts on the surf clam industry; sea ​​floor changes caused by wind turbine foundations and equipment; and the regular use of the area as a migration route by five species of whales, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.

He also cited a finding from the Federal Office of Ocean Energy Management that major impacts on commercial and recreational fishing could occur, even with Orsted’s proposed mitigation measures.

Liz Thomas, spokeswoman for Ocean Wind I, said the project has been under regulatory review for 12 years by nine federal agencies, three state agencies and more than 100 advisory parties, including cities. communities, tribes and community organizations.

The lawsuit comes as lawmakers in Atlantic County, which includes Atlantic City, prepare to vote Tuesday on a measure backing calls for a moratorium on offshore wind readiness work until an investigation can be ended on a wave of whale deaths along the East Coast. Three federal science agencies and one at the state level say there is no evidence linking the death of 50 whales since December to site preparation work for offshore wind projects.

Additionally, lawmakers in Cape May County, which includes Ocean City, last week hired two additional law firms to help them fight offshore wind projects.


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