Editor’s Log: Whirlwind Pace - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: Whirlwind Pace

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) and state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) recently approved two new agreements to hand over $6 million in taxpayer monies to offshore wind developers.  Under the agreements, New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program (administered by BPU) will provide $4.5 million for NJEDA-led workforce development projects aimed at “preparing more New Jersey workers for jobs in offshore wind,” and another $1.25 million to support early-stage, New Jersey-based clean-tech companies.

“Ever since Governor Murphy took office, we have been moving at a whirlwind pace on offshore wind, and especially with the twin crises of COVD-19’s economic devastation and climate change, we are not slowing down any time soon,” said NJBPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso.

Cool your jets there Mr. Fiordaliso, that “whirlwind pace” may be good for wind developers and a few of the political wonks appointed by Gov. Murphy perhaps, but it’s no longer smooth sailing for some New Jersey democrats who have to answer to those of us who are footing the bill!

As Mr. Fiordaliso was announcing new taxpayer funds for Gov. Murphy’s windfarm buddies from Germany and Denmark, three of the state’s most powerful democrats – Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Assembly Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli and Assembly Deputy Parliamentarian Adam Taliaferro – signed an official letter to BPU urging Mr. Fiordaliso’s agency to “immediately suspend the approval of the Ocean Wind project.”

The September 9th letter to Mr. Fiordaliso specifically calls for an official investigation into potential misrepresentations by Orsted in its application.  Those “misrepresentations” referenced by Sweeney, Burzichelli and Taliaferro are related to approved financial support for the Ocean Wind project and the purported economic impacts to the public, as required by the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act of 2010 (OWEDA).

“One of those findings was that Ocean Wind offered more economic benefits for the State than the other two applicants,” the letter stated of the winning bids, noting how the BPU found that Ocean Wind had entered into an agreement with a German monopole foundation manufacturer, “to spur location of an EEW monopole foundation fabrication facility in Paulsboro, New Jersey.” The letter goes on to include a couple of interesting paragraphs.

“As part of its application, Ocean Wind also executed an MOU with the South Jersey Building and Construction Trades Council to hire only union labor for construction. Ocean Wind also indicated that it would establish a Pro-NJ Grantor Trust with a $15 million initial investment to enable minority and women business enterprise and small business entry into the offshore wind industry. Orsted also made several other promises concerning the economic development benefits of Ocean Wind.” 

“We are starting to speak with our colleagues throughout the North East about their experiences with Wind Energy companies, including Orsted. We are asking if these companies, including Orsted, have made the same representations in other states and have equally failed to deliver. We believe that it is incumbent upon you, as part of your investigation, to contact your colleagues regarding the concerns that have been raised. If these concerns are validated, we request that you terminate the award and immediately commence a new and more transparent process for Offshore Wind project applicants.”

In a nutshell, state law requires companies seeking taxpayer subsidies to demonstrate how projects will produce net economic benefits in terms of new jobs and regional investments; in other words, they have to justify how public funds towards private industry actually support the public.

Are state legislators beginning to see a little hot air in wind development?  With all the promises of improved opportunity and access for saltwater anglers around offshore windfarms, it’s about time legislators starting demanding a little bit of transparency and accountability.  And it should be done at that same whirlwind pace as the pledging, permitting and promising phase!

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