Governor vetoes Fishermen’s Energy pilot offshore wind farm, arguing BPU’s ‘authority’ is at stake
For the second time, Gov. Chris Christie has blocked the development of a pilot offshore wind farm that would be located nearly three miles from Atlantic City.
The governor yesterday vetoed outright a bill (S-988) aimed at paving the way for a 25-megawatt offshore wind project that would be the first such facility built along the Jersey coast.
The project has been repeatedly rejected as too costly to utility customers, who would pay a large portion of its expense, by the state Board of Public Utilities. Christie previously vetoed a similar, but not identical bill designed to move the project along.
Legislators, its developer and clean-energy advocates keep pushing the Fishermen’s Energy project as a way to get the state’s sputtering offshore wind program into gear. The project gained credibility when it secured a $47 million grant from the federal Department of Energy to help finance it, but it was still turned down by state regulators
Six years ago this summer, Christie signed a bill to spur an offshore wind industry along the coast of the state, with the goal of developing at least 1,100 megawatts of wind farms by 2020. Beyond providing a cleaner source of electricity for consumers, the investment would help spur a green economy, according to advocates.
That target will not be achieved, primarily because the BPU has never come up with a financing mechanism that would make the projects economically feasible. Without the customer subsidies, the projects would likely never line up the financing for Wall Street to build them, according to developers.
In vetoing the latest bill, Christie argued the measure “would usurp BPU’s authority’’ and take away its discretion for “managing energy matters’’ in the state.
Even with the Fishermen’s Energy project faltering, the federal government has awarded two developers leases to build offshore wind farms 20 miles from the coast. If fully built, the projects could provide enough electricity to supply about 1.2 million homes.
Whether those projects ever move forward, however, is up in the air, according to proponents.
“By vetoing this bill and refusing to put in place a funding mechanism, the Christie administration is blocking these companies from building their wind turbines on these parcels,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, called on the Legislature, which passed the vetoed bill with bipartisan support, to override the governor. “The Fishermen’s Energy project will help jump start offshore wind in New Jersey,’’ he said.