Lawsuits could delay start of New Jersey’s first offshore wind project

OCEAN CITY, NJ (AP) — A tangle of litigation could delay the start of New Jersey’s first offshore wind energy project, as developer Orsted sues governments to stop delaying necessary permits and groups of citizens are trying to stop the project completely.

The latest in a series of fast-growing lawsuits came on July 3 when Danish wind energy developer Orsted sued Cape May County, alleging the government is dragging its feet in issuing a road permit needed to perform test work along the route of an electrical cable.

The company is also suing the city of Ocean City over similar delays in the project, which the federal government approved as an important part of the White House’s efforts to “jumpstart the offshore wind industry across the country,” in order to tackle the catastrophic effects of climate change.

Last month, three citizens’ groups opposed to offshore wind – Save Long Beach Island, Defend Brigantine Beach and Protect Our Coast NJ – appealed New Jersey’s decision that the Ocean Wind I project is compliant with the rules of state coastal management.

And one such group, Save Long Beach Island, is also suing a federal agency, the US Office of Ocean Energy Management, for its creation of offshore wind rental sites off the coast of New Jersey.

Orsted is turning to the courts to try to end government inertia that could threaten his goal of starting construction in the fall.

His lawsuit against Cape May County claims that the delay in issuing a road works permit has already delayed the project. The state’s Utilities Board issued an order in February saying the proposed cable route was necessary for the project to proceed, and in March authorized an easement on county-owned property for work to proceed. place.

But the county, which opposes the project and has voted to do everything it can to stop it, has yet to acknowledge the easement. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Maddy Urbish, an Orsted official, declined to comment on the lawsuit other than to say, “Ocean Wind I remains committed to working with local communities and will continue to work to support clean energy goals and economic development goals. of New Jersey by providing well-paid services. local jobs and investment in the Garden State.

Orsted has all the major approvals he needs to build Ocean Wind I, a 98-turbine wind farm about 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City and Ocean City. It still requires a number of lesser permits and approvals from local, state and federal authorities.

Earlier this month, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation giving Orsted tax relief, allowing him to keep federal tax credits he would otherwise have had to return to New Jersey taxpayers.

Almost immediately after, the developer of another proposed offshore wind farm in New Jersey, Atlantic Shores, also said it wanted financial assistance for its project. Murphy said he was “open-minded” about the request.

Orsted also has approval from New Jersey regulators to build a second wind farm, Ocean Wind II, although that project is not as far along in the approval process as Ocean Wind I.

The plans also face significant political opposition, mostly from Republicans, who blame site preparation work for the deaths of 53 whales along the US East Coast since December. But three federal agencies and one state agency all say there is no evidence linking offshore wind preparedness to whale deaths.


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