OCEAN CITY, NJ (AP) — A tangle of litigation could delay the start of New Jersey’s first offshore wind projectas developer Orsted is suing governments to stop delaying necessary permits, and citizen groups attempt to halt the project entirely.
The latest in a rapidly growing tangle of litigation came on July 3 when Danish wind power developer Orsted sued Cape May County, alleging that the government was delaying in issuing a road permit needed to conduct test work. along the path that a power cable would run.
The company is also suing the city of Ocean City over similar delays to the project, which the federal government has backed as an important cog in the White House’s efforts to “jump-start the offshore wind industry across the country,” in order to to address the catastrophic effects of climate change.
Last month, three groups of citizens opposed to offshore wind energy — Save Long Beach Island, Defend Brigantine Beach, and Protect Our Coast NJ — filed an appeal of New Jersey’s determination that the Ocean Wind I project is consistent with state coastal management rules.
And one such group, Save Long Beach Island, is also suing a federal agency, the US Office of Ocean Energy Management, over the creation of offshore wind leasing sites off the New Jersey shoreline.
Orsted is turning to the courts to try to end government inertia that could threaten his goal of starting construction in the fall.
Their lawsuit against Cape May County claims that the delay in issuing a road works permit has already delayed the project. The state Public Utilities Board issued an order in February saying the proposed cable route is necessary for the project to proceed, and in March authorized an easement on county property for the work to be carried out.
But the county, which opposes the project and has voted to do everything it can to stop it, has yet to recognize the easement. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Maddy Urbish, an Orsted official, declined to comment on the lawsuit other than to say: “Ocean Wind I remains committed to working with local communities and will continue to work to support New Jersey’s clean energy goals and economic development goals. by bringing jobs and local investment to the Garden State.”
Orsted has all the major approvals it needs to build Ocean Wind I, a 98-turbine wind farm about 15 miles off the Atlantic City and Ocean City coasts. It still requires a number of minor permits and approvals from local, state, and federal authorities.
Earlier this month, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation granting Orsted a tax break, allowing him to keep federal tax credits he would otherwise have had to pay back to New Jersey taxpayers.
Almost immediately afterward, the developer of another proposed offshore wind farm in New Jersey, Atlantic Shores, said it also wants financial assistance for its project. Murphy said he has an “open mind” about that request.
Orsted also has approval from New Jersey regulators to build a second wind farm, Ocean Wind II, although that project is not as far along in the approval process as Ocean Wind I.
The projects also face significant political opposition, mainly from Republicans, who blame site preparation work for the deaths of 53 whales along the US east coast since December. But three federal agencies and one state say there is no evidence linking offshore wind preparation to whale deaths.
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