Over 120 elected officials, who signed a letter of support for responsible offshore wind development, see state offshore wind goal possible with new solicitation

March 8, 2023

Over 120 New Jersey elected officials, who signed a EOPA letter of support for responsible offshore wind development, praised New Jersey’s new offshore wind solicitation that will put the state on track to meet Governor Phil Murphy’s goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2035. It also represents a significant milestone toward achieving Gov. Murphy’s goal of 11 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy by 2040, which is projected to power 3.2 million homes with renewable energy.

On March 6, The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) voted to open the application window for the state’s third solicitation for offshore wind capacity. The third solicitation seeks to award between 1.2 GW and 4 GW of offshore wind capacity, building on the previously awarded 3.75 GW.

“in Atlantic City we see flooding all year from sea level rise. Our children are forced to stay home on flood days. Combating the climate crisis head on with our offshore wind development will give our children and their families hope, jobs and security,” said Atlantic County Commissioner Caren Fitzpatrick, Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) New Jersey Leadership Council. “Offshore wind is critically important for New Jersey to meet our economic development, public health, and environmental justice goals. It has already set the state economy on a higher growth trajectory by driving workforce development, economic prosperity, and job creation.”

The application window opens on March 6, 2023 and closes on June 23, 2023. The Board anticipates making a decision on the submitted applications by the end of 2023.

In 2019, NJBPU made an award from its first offshore wind solicitation to Ørsted’s 1.1 GW Ocean Wind project.  In 2021, NJBPU made its second and third awards to Ocean Wind II for 1.1 GW of offshore wind capacity and Atlantic Shores for 1.5 GW of offshore wind capacity.

“With up to 4 GW from this third solicitation, along with the 3.75 GW that have already been awarded, these projects will inject $4.7 billion into New Jersey’s economy and create over 10,000 jobs. That’s not just a tremendous win for our clean energy economy. It’s a major milestone for environmental justice, our health, and our planet—protecting our people from climate change—as it enables us to meet Governor Murphy’s new goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2035,” said Essex County Commissioner President Brendan Gill. Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) New Jersey Leadership Council Member.

Offshore wind energy will help save the whales—

Yearly whales wash ashore on the U.S. East Coast. This winter has been no exception, but the media attention stirred by right wing organizations backing local groups has created a national circus of disinformation surrounding the deaths.

“This third solicitation is a benchmark that solidifies New Jersey’s position at the national forefront of safeguarding communities from the worsening impacts of the climate crisis. New Jersey businesses, community groups, labor unions, and environmental groups all want to see offshore wind developed equitably and responsibly,” said Dominic Frongillo, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Elected Officials to Protect America. “We’re at the vanguard of a new clean, renewable energy industry that has begun to generate thousands of union jobs with training. It will create prosperity for our  communities facing environmental injustice, and improve health outcomes, while protecting our coastlines—including our whales.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, necropsies were conducted on the whales where it was possible, revealing that ship strikes were the likely cause of at least eight of the deaths. The federal government has been studying whale deaths since 2016 as the rate increased. Since then, 186 of the animals have died between Maine and Florida, with a high of 34 in 2017. In recent years the numbers have been declining.

Three federal scientific agencies — NOAA, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the Marine Mammal Commission — have categorically said there is no evidence linking offshore wind activities to whale deaths.

Under federal regulations there are stringent requirements for vessels conducting offshore wind activities that are designed to look for and avoid marine mammals. An observer must be aboard during daylight hours and two at night using night-vision equipment. Additionally, the offshore wind surveying equipment is smaller, and quieter than the intrusive, noisy, environmental damaging equipment used by oil and gas exploitation. Yet the oil industry has drilled, polluted, and has been responsible for major spills endangering and killing mammals, including whales.

The decline of right whales comes as the Gulf of Maine off New England— their primary feeding grounds — has been warming faster than nearly any other body of water on earth. Since 2010, the temperature in these waters has been above average 92 percent of the time, and at heatwave levels for 55 percent of the time. The rise in temperature has led to dramatic declines, up to 90 percent in some areas, in a small crustacean, calanus, the main source of food for whales. In search of nourishment, they have been migrating north into more fishing and shipping traffic.

The shipping in the area is heavy with 40 percent of vessels carrying petroleum products. Less than 2 percent are surveying offshore wind ships, which travel at slow speeds. Far slower than oil tankers.

“Offshore wind powers clean renewable energy that will diminish our dependency on fossil fuels, and help stop ocean temperature rise,” added Commissioner Fitzpatrick. “We should be exposing the threats of fossil fuel exploration, increased shipping, and the clear and present danger that thousands of oil platforms present, not believing in rumors generated by fossil fuel interest. It’s not surprising that out-of-state fossil fuel interests are funding shadow organizations to delay New Jersey’s transition to clean renewable energy. We must question the validity of intrusive oil company operations that add to the climate crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, not demonize clean renewable offshore wind.”

The connections between groups like Save Long Beach Island, the American Coalition for Ocean Protection, and the Caesar Rodney Institute are well documented.

Protect Our Coast New Jersey has a donation button on their website that goes to a Caesar Rodney Paypal account. David Stevenson is the head of the Caesar Rodney Institute, a nonprofit that has been backed by the conservative dark money groups Donors Capital Fund and DonorsTrust. Stevenson is also linked with the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the American Energy Alliance, a fossil industry group founded by a former Enron executive. Additionally, The Texas Public Policy Foundation, an oil company-funded advocacy group, is taking up the cause of the whales in court, according to the Washington Post.

Opposing groups to offshore wind are invested in protecting the profits of fossil fuel companies’ by delaying the inevitable clean energy transition. These same oil companies have taken advantage of the war in Ukraine and inflation to reap exorbitant profits off the backs of consumers. Fourth-quarter oil company reports show a combined profit of $199 billion, according to Reuters.

New Jersey has a goal of 11-gigawatt fixed bottom offshore wind by 2040, which is leading the nation in fixed bottom offshore. 

America is finally investing in offshore wind, after it was put on hold because the previous administration sided with the oil industry. President Biden set a goal for 30 gigawatts from fixed bottom offshore wind by 2030, and 15 gigawatts of offshore wind power from floating turbines by 2035. As a result, there are 17 projects on the East Coast in active development.

“The best way to help whales flourish is for humans to stop using fossil fuels that have been fueling climate change and thereby endangering the whale’s habitat and food source. I’m proud New Jersey is keeping to schedule and moving forward with its climate crisis mitigation goals. They are key for the state, a model to the nation and a lifeline for our planet,” said Burlington County Commissioner Balvir Singh, Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) New Jersey Leadership Council Member. “We must stop using dirty fossil fuels in the light of clean available renewable technologies like offshore wind. As we transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy, those living in frontline communities will finally be able to breathe fresh air, and go to school asthma free. Surely, that’s a worthy goal everyone and every industry should support. I stand with EOPA New Jersey’s letter of support for responsible offshore wind development.”

According to their press release, NJBPU will continue to coordinate with the applicable federal agencies with jurisdiction, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to ensure projects are responsibly developed and sited.

Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind and Ocean Wind have already committed approximately $26.5 million – to fund regional research and monitoring to assess the impacts of offshore wind on New Jersey’s natural resources.

The Research and Monitoring Initiative will identify, prioritize and fund projects in regional research and monitoring of marine and coastal resources before and during offshore wind development, construction, operation and maintenance, and decommissioning as recommended in the New Jersey Offshore Wind Strategic Plan. The NJBPU is recommending that any projects selected in the third solicitation contribute funding to this initiative.

Offshore wind has the potential to provide more than 2,000 GW of energy in the United States — two times the present generation of the entire U.S. electric grid, according to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimate.

Elected Officials to Protect America is a network of current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting the planet and people. EOPA is committed to solving the climate crisis, ensuring environmental justice, and protecting our lands and waters. EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, training lawmakers, and connecting elected officials to inspire strong environmental leadership.

EOPA New Jersey is a statewide, non-partisan network of New Jersey elected officials committed to protecting our communities, public health, and climate for all we represent.