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Top Democrats grow wary about unanswered questions on offshore wind

NJ Spotlight News|Tom Johnson|August 9, 2023
New JerseyImpact on PeopleOffshore WindJobs and Economy

With all state lawmaker seats up for election this fall, legislative leaders are signaling that the debate over offshore wind is emerging as a potential factor in who controls that branch of government over the next two years. In an unexpected move, the Democratic Senate president and Assembly speaker on Monday issued a joint statement expressing concerns about the state Board of Public Utilities’ approach on promoting offshore wind projects, citing concerns about its potential cost to utility customers and its impact on New Jersey’s lucrative tourism industry. 


With all state lawmaker seats up for election this fall, legislative leaders are signaling that the debate over offshore wind is emerging as a potential factor in who controls that branch of government over the next two years. 

In an unexpected move, the Democratic Senate president and Assembly speaker on Monday issued a joint statement expressing concerns about the state Board of Public Utilities’ approach on promoting offshore wind projects, citing concerns about its potential cost to utility customers and its impact on New Jersey’s lucrative tourism industry. 

The one-paragraph statement marked a shift away from the usual stalwart backing the top Democrats have given what is perhaps the linchpin of the Murphy administration’s …

... more [truncated due to possible copyright]

With all state lawmaker seats up for election this fall, legislative leaders are signaling that the debate over offshore wind is emerging as a potential factor in who controls that branch of government over the next two years. 

In an unexpected move, the Democratic Senate president and Assembly speaker on Monday issued a joint statement expressing concerns about the state Board of Public Utilities’ approach on promoting offshore wind projects, citing concerns about its potential cost to utility customers and its impact on New Jersey’s lucrative tourism industry. 

The one-paragraph statement marked a shift away from the usual stalwart backing the top Democrats have given what is perhaps the linchpin of the Murphy administration’s clean-energy agenda. And this public concern comes shortly after they moved quickly last month to approve a bill that awarded Ørsted, the developer of the state’s first offshore wind project, the use of $1 billion in lucrative federal tax credits. 

“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,’’ said the statement by Senate President Nicholas Scutari and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.  

“The BPU should be able to share these impacts with the communities affected and the Legislature before moving forward with these new offshore projects,’’ their statement concluded, referring to four new wind farm proposals submitted to the BPU last week. 

The Republican view  

In response, Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-Morris) issued his own statement, repeating his call for a moratorium on offshore wind projects until the state can obtain answers about the impacts. Concerns that Republicans raised about giving Ørsted a bailout were ignored by Murphy and his allies, Bucco also said. 

“That money should have gone back to utility customers, not to foreign companies while sticking residents with higher bills,’’ Bucco said. 

The BPU has come under repeated criticism that it has not been transparent about what the goal of developing 11,000 megawatts of new electric power from offshore wind by 2040 will cost customers. At the same time, offshore wind developers have encountered fiscal challenges in completing other projects. In some cases, they have walked away or delayed projects in other states and Europe. 

“Shock and surprise that the state Legislature has come to recognize what we have been saying for years,’’ said Michael Makarski, a spokesman for Affordable Energy of New Jersey, one of the critics. “The transition away from natural gas will be astronomically expensive and people will be very upset about it.’’ 

Eye on November elections? 

The Democrats’ statement could be tied to polls taken by consultants for the party on this fall’s election, which have shown closer than expected results in crucial swing districts, according to sources familiar with the results who were not authorized to speak publicly about them. 

Democrats control the Legislature in a state where they have prevailed at the polls for decades. But many fear that post-census redistricting may have made some seats more competitive for their incumbents. And they point to the shocking upset two years ago where then-Senate President Steve Sweeney was ousted by a politically unknown Republican, truck driver Edward Durr.  

Concerns over offshore wind have been fanned by outside groups organizing Shore residents and amplifying derided claims that prep work for the wind farms is causing a growing numbers of whale deaths. 

Makarski argued the economics of offshore wind have never made sense. “It is evident from the leadership statement that deep concern about offshore wind, in particular the economics and feasibility, is growing within the legislative caucus,’’ he said. “Clearly the November elections are causing many elected officials to revisit these flawed energy proposals.’’ 

Even some champions of clean energy have concerns about the BPU approach. “We’re going into this blindly,’’ said Jeff Tittel, a longtime environmentalist and offshore wind advocate. “We need to understand the cost — not only for construction of the wind farms, but also to bring it ashore.’’ 

But Doug O”Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, argued the potential for offshore wind off the Jersey coast is still tremendous, as evident by four new projects proposed last week. “Clearly, the winds have shifted for offshore wind, and it is now more politically contentious,’’ he said. 

The four projects submitted to the BPU are all located in the New York Bight, an area off the coasts of New Jersey and New York. The agency is expected to decide which projects move forward, if any, early next year. 


Source:https://www.njspotlightnews.o…

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