By MADDY VITALE
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has completed its environmental analysis of the proposed Ocean Wind 1 offshore wind project along the South Jersey coast, according to a federal news release.
The approval of the Environmental Impact Statement is another step toward the construction of a controversial project bitterly opposed by elected officials in Ocean City and other coastal communities in Atlantic and Cape May Counties.
To read the Environmental Impact Statement in its entirety, visit: https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/ocean-wind-1
Orsted, the Danish energy company with the wind farm project, Ocean Wind 1, proposes to construct up to 98 wind turbine generators (WTGs) and up to three offshore substations within its lease area.
At its closest point, the Ocean Wind 1 project will be at least 15 miles southeast of Atlantic City. Transmission cables are anticipated to make landfall in Ocean County and Cape May County.
The turbines would be installed between Atlantic City and Stone Harbor, passing by Ventnor, Margate, Longport, Ocean City, Sea Isle City and other shore towns.
Michael Donohue, Cape May County’s special counsel for wind farm proposals, gave the county’s feelings toward the latest development.
“The County and its consultants are sifting through the hundreds of pages of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s proposed Final Environmental Impact Statement for Orsted’s Ocean Wind One project. What we can tell already is that the Ocean Wind 1 project is one giant experiment being conducted at the potential expense of our environment and economy in Cape May County,” Donohue said in a statement.
He continued, “Essentially what BOEM says is, ‘It appears that building this project will negatively impacts marine mammals, the fishing industry, the aquatic food chain, the tourism economy and historic resources, but we don’t know how much so let’s roll the dice and see what happens.'”
Donohue added that, “This is incredibly capricious in light of what is at stake for the people and small businesses of Cape May County and our coastal environment. We will be identifying possible legal challenges to the FEIS.”
Cape May County and Ocean City are fighting the Ocean Wind 1 project over a proposed transmission line that Orsted wants to run through city and county property within Ocean City and Upper Township. That matter is in court.
Orsted 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 in a statement May 8.
Ocean City has appealed a New Jersey Board of Public Utilities ruling that bypasses local review of the proposed transmission line through town.
Orsted’s Maddy Urbish, head of Government Affairs and Market Strategy, New Jersey, said the latest development by BOEM is another step in the process for the wind farm project.
“Ocean Wind 1 continues to advance through the multi-year federal permitting process, and we’re pleased to reach this latest milestone, the issuance of BOEM’s final Environmental Impact Statement,” “Ocean Wind 1 anticipates onshore construction beginning in the fall and offshore construction activities ramping up in 2024.”
The goal of the Biden-Harris administration to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030.
“BOEM continues to make progress towards a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a new clean energy industry in the United States,” BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein said in a news release.
Klein continued, “Offshore wind is a critical component of the Biden-Harris administration’s strategy to tackle the climate crisis, while creating good-paying jobs and ensuring economic opportunities are accessible to all communities.”
Opponents continue to argue that a wind farm off the coast 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.
The wind farm opponents also believe that a major spike in whale deaths in New Jersey and other East Coast states — more than 30 since December — coincides with 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.
Protect Our Coast NJ, an independent grassroots organization, held an anti-wind farm petition drive that to date, has garnered more than 500,000 signatures through https://www.change.org/p/protect-our-coast-nj-save-the-whales-stop-offshore-wind.
The group also held a rally in Trenton in March to seek a moratorium on the wind farm projects until more could be learned about them.
On Saturday, a group of offshore wind opponents not affiliated with Protect Our Coast NJ, is holding a rally from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Ninth Street bridge in Ocean City.
In addition to petition drives and rallies, officials have held public forums on the topic of offshore wind calling for a moratorium.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, whose district includes the shore towns of Atlantic and Cape May counties, has been one of the most outspoken opponents of offshore wind energy.
In March, Van Drew convened a congressional hearing at the Wildwoods Convention Center about the need to halt the wind farm projects until more can be learned about the deaths of marine life as well as the need for more information about the project.
That same month, Cape May County Commissioner Director Leonard Desiderio and Ocean City Mayor Gillian hosted a forum at the Ocean City Tabernacle, where the majority of speakers from the public and officials spoke out against the wind farm projects.
If approved, Ocean Wind 1 will be the third commercial-scale offshore wind project located on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf approved by the Biden-Harris administration.
New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, a strong supporter of offshore wind technology, wants New Jersey to become a leader in green energy. So far, New Jersey has approved three offshore wind farms and is looking to add more.
Murphy’s goal is to have offshore wind farms producing 11,000 megawatts of power in New Jersey by 2040.
A “Notice of Availability” for the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Ocean Wind LLC’s Proposed Wind Energy Facility Offshore New Jersey” will publish in the Federal Register on May 26, 2023.
The final EIS analyzes the potential environmental impacts of the activities laid out in Ocean Wind LLC’s Construction and Operations Plan. The final EIS is available on BOEM’s website.
On June 24, 2022, BOEM published a draft EIS, initiating a 45-day public comment period, which was later extended until Aug. 23, 2022.
The next step in the process is that BOEM plans to issue a Record of Decision (ROD) on whether to approve the proposed project this summer, according to BOEM. The ROD is the conclusion of the National Environmental Policy Act EIS process.