Blue state county votes unanimously against offshore wind development

A county in New Jersey voted unanimously to oppose an offshore wind farm proposed for its coastline, citing the project’s negative impacts on the environment, tourism industry and beach vistas.

In a 4-0 vote this week, the Cape May County, New Jersey, Board of Commissioners passed a resolution green-lighting reasonable use of all the county’s resources to oppose the wind projects developed by Danish multinational energy company Orsted. The county is also considering legal options and appealed a state public utility permit it says would transfer “real property interests” from residents to Orsted.

“At first, the County of Cape May was interested in trying to work with Orsted to find a way forward, perhaps with some modifications to the project to reduce visual, environmental and economic impacts,” Cape May County Board of Commissioners Director Len Desiderio said in a statement. 

“We would like to see land-based offshore wind facilities and supply chain infrastructure built here in New Jersey, since that would create good opportunities for trade workers and others,” Desiderio continued. “But we cannot sit quietly by as hundreds of windmills are installed off our beaches as state and federal government agencies ignore our legitimate and serious concerns.”

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The resolution particularly targets Orsted’s Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2 projects, which together, would consist of nearly 200 wind turbines across 161,000 acres in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape May County. According to the county, the turbines would be as close as nine miles from its coastline and would be visible from every beach in the county.

The project would also have two transmission line corridors with one substation in Cape May County.

According to the resolution, Cape May County officials have engaged with Orsted since 2021, but the negotiations ultimately fell through after the company turned to state and federal officials who were supportive of the development.

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“As time went by, it became clear that Orsted was not interested in finding any compromise,” added Desiderio, the chairman of the county’s board of commissioners. 

“It is clear to us now that the approach among this foreign corporation and their partners in the state and federal governments is to build these things as fast as they can despite the potential for devastating environmental and economic impacts,” he said. “On behalf of the people of Cape May County, we will not let that happen without a fight.”

The county further argued the wind project would have little to no positive impact on global warming, lead to a 15% decline in tourism which translates to a billion-dollar loss for the local economy and harm marine wildlife.

As part of the effort to oppose Orsted’s projects, the county hired Virginia-based law firm Cultural Heritage Partners, the Washington, D.C.-based environmental consulting group Warwick Consulting and former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael Donohue to serve as special counsel and offshore wind coordinator.

“The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, with its President, other members, and staff, after announcing that they are ‘partners’ with Orsted and wearing wind turbine blade lapel pins, deprived the County and Ocean City of required due process and acted in an indefensibly biased and unfair fashion in ruling in favor of the Danish wind company and against the duly elected officials of Ocean City and the County,” Donohue said in a statement.

“The Commissioners have authorized the exploration of legal challenges on all fronts, including challenges to [New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection] permits and a host of federal permits that will be issued over the coming months,” he continued.

Cape May County is New Jersey’s southernmost county, consists of 16 separate jurisdictions and has a population of about 95,000 residents.

Orsted didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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