Home Latest Stories Ocean City, Wind Farm Developer Clash in Legal Fight

Ocean City, Wind Farm Developer Clash in Legal Fight

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A photo of the Orsted offshore wind farm in Burbo Bank, the United Kingdom, shows turbines that are more than 600 feet tall. The proposed Ocean Wind project at the Jersey Shore will have turbines towering more than 900 feet high. (Photo courtesy of Orsted)

By MADDY VITALE and DONALD WITTKOWSKI

Ocean City is lashing out at the developer of a proposed offshore wind farm after being hit with a lawsuit in an ongoing dispute over a transmission line needed for the controversial project.

The Danish energy company Orsted, which plans to build the Ocean Wind project, filed a lawsuit in state Superior Court on May 4 demanding that Ocean City should grant the permits needed for the underground transmission line.

Orsted plans to run a transmission line under the seabed to bring electricity onshore through the beach lots of 35th Street in Ocean City. The line would run through Ocean City and connect to the land-based electric grid at the former B.L. England power plant in Upper Township.

In response to the lawsuit, Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian issued a statement strongly criticizing Orsted.

“The lawsuit continues a pattern that Ocean Wind presumes the offshore wind project is a done deal and they will resort to any means to maintain their desired schedule,” Gillian said.

Ocean City has appealed a New Jersey Board of Public Utilities ruling that bypasses local review of the proposed transmission line through town, Gillian explained in the statement. The appeal, he said, is made on the basis that this may not be the only or best route, and that other routes were given little consideration.

“Rather than await the decision of the Appellate Division, Ocean Wind is demanding street-opening permits to pursue the route that is the subject of the appeal,” Gillian said.

The transmission line would run to an electric grid at the decommissioned plant, B.L. England in Upper Township. (Photo credit: William Kryzak www.propixelimaging.com)

The city has asked the BPU to stay its ruling until the appeal process is complete. The BPU has not yet ruled on that request.

“The application to open Ocean City’s streets comes before the federal decision on whether the project can be built in the first place,” Gillian said. “It came before the decision on whether the project can cross state tidal lands.”

This is just another move by Orsted in an attempt to push through its project, Gillian asserted.

The New Jersey BPU in June 2019 chose Orsted’s Ocean Wind to be the preferred developer for the first project to help Gov. Phil Murphy meet his goal for offshore wind generation.

It would be the first wind energy farm along the New Jersey coast, 15 miles offshore between Atlantic City and Stone Harbor, passing by Ocean City.

The lawsuit filed by Orsted against Ocean City alleges two counts of wrongdoing by Ocean City, “Withholding Permit” and “De Facto Denial.”

The lawsuit states that the city is holding up the permitting process.

“The City’s failure to issue the permit has already delayed the start of project construction, which is planned to begin as early as the third quarter of 2023,” the lawsuit states.

It continues, “The City’s failure to issue the permit is having a cascading and adverse effect on other permits and approvals needed for construction. Specifically, it is preventing Ocean Wind 1 from applying for and obtaining other permits and approvals, including but not limited to, a potential temporary dewatering permit from NJDEP, as well as a road opening permit from the City for construction.”

In addition, it states in count two that, “The defendants’ failure to process the permit application is tantamount to a denial of the permit.”

Protesters rally in Trenton in March to oppose the construction of offshore wind farms along the coast. (Photo courtesy of Protect Our Coast NJ Facebook page)

Ocean Wind is seeking a judgment in its favor compelling Ocean City to grant the permit and approve its plans.

“If Ocean Wind 1 does not receive the permit for this important work by June 16, 2023, the construction of the project will be further delayed,” the lawsuit says.

Since the project received federal permitting, it has been the source of contention for lawmakers and residents of coastal shore communities from Ocean City to Stone Harbor and up the coast in Ocean County, where another planned offshore wind farm is in the works.

Opponents have argued that Ocean Wind would mean 98 towering wind turbines off the coast that would hurt tourism, commercial fishing operations and the environment, specifically marine life and migratory bird patterns. They also believe the turbines would create a visual blight when viewed from land.

Orsted’s opponents also believe that more than 30 whale deaths in New Jersey and other East Coast states since December are connected to sonar mapping of the seabed for the offshore wind projects. However, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center and other groups have blamed the whale deaths primarily on vessel strikes.

Orsted filed petitions in recent months to run the transmission line through Ocean City and Marmora to connect the offshore wind turbines to the land-based electric grid at the former B.L. England power plant in Upper Township. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities granted approval for the transmission line.

The underground cable would travel west to Bay Avenue, north on Bay Avenue to Roosevelt Boulevard, west across Peck Bay at Roosevelt Boulevard Bridge and then continue on to Route 9 to property near the former B.L. England Generating Station, according to Orsted’s petition.

The result of the line through 35th Street could mean disruption to delicate wetlands, according to the attorneys for the county and shore towns.

Orsted is going through the permitting and government review process at this time. The proposed 1,100-megawatt project is expected to come online in 2024 and be fully operational by 2025 to provide power to 500,000 homes.

The audience fills the Ocean City Tabernacle during a forum in March about the plan for the offshore wind farm.