New Jersey Senate Democrats Call for Board of Public Utilities to Suspend, Investigate Ocean Wind Project

By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Assignment Editor

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, assembly deputy speaker John Burzichelli, and assembly deputy parliamentarian Adam Taliaferro have called on the state’s Board of Public Utilities to suspend the Ocean Wind project.

In a letter to BPU President Joseph Fiordaliso, the State Senate called for an “immediate suspension” and investigation into the project, which is located 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City.

The project, which Follow South Jersey initially reported on in June 2019, was expected to provide more than 500,000 New Jersey households with electricity, generate more than $1 billion in “economic benefit,” and create more than 15,000 jobs. The award given for the project was the largest in the United States when it was officially approved in June 2019. Ørsted, a Danish energy company, also signed memorandums of understanding with Rowan University and Stockton University concerning the project in April 2019.

The State Senate, however, has concerns about some of the promises made by Ørsted throughout the construction process.

“When the BPU approved OREC financial support for the Ocean Wind project in June 2019, it made specific findings about the economic impact of the project, as required by the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act of 2010 (OWEDA), which we sponsored,” the letter reads. “One of those findings was that Ocean Wind offered more economic benefits for the State than the other two applicants. The BPU found that Ocean Wind had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with EEW, a German monopole foundation manufacturer, ‘to spur location of an EEW monopole foundation fabrication facility in Paulsboro, New Jersey.'”

The BPU’s order also said the offshore facility “may be enlarged in its scope of activities as the Atlantic Coast offshore wind industry grows” as part of its longer-term scope. Ocean Wind also executed a MOU with the South Jersey Building and Construction Trades Council to ensure that union labor would be the only labor hired for construction of the facilities. Additionally, Ocean Wind was also supposed to use a $15 million initial investment to help small businesses — including minority and female business enterprises — enter the offshore wind industry. The State Senate also claims that Ørsted, which also worked with PSEG on this project, made “several other promises concerning the economic development benefits of Ocean Wind” throughout this process.

“We are starting to speak with our colleagues throughout the Northeast about their experiences with Wind Energy companies, including Ørsted,” the letter continues. “We are asking if these companies, including Ørsted, have made the same representations in other states and have equally failed to deliver. We believe that it is incumbent upon you, as part of your investigation, to contact your colleagues regarding the concerns that have been raised.”

The State Senate requested that the current project be terminated and a new, more transparent offshore process for projects of this nature be instituted if its concerns are found to be valid.

You can read the State Senate’s letter to Fiordaliso in its entirety below:

Dear President Fiordaliso:

We write today to request that the Board of Public Utilities immediately suspend the approval of the Ocean Wind project, which was backed by a Memorandum of Understanding between Ørsted and PSEG Renewable Generation. Additionally, we request an investigation into potential misrepresentations that Ørsted made in its application to the NJ Board of Public Utilities.

When the BPU approved OREC financial support for the Ocean Wind project in June 2019, it made specific findings about the economic impact of the project, as required by the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act of 2010 (OWEDA), which we sponsored. One of those findings was that Ocean Wind offered more economic benefits for the State than the other two applicants. The BPU found that Ocean Wind had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with EEW, a German monopole foundation manufacturer, “to spur location of an EEW monopole foundation fabrication facility in Paulsboro, New Jersey.” The BPU order stated that, longer term, this facility “may be enlarged in its scope of activities as the Atlantic Coast offshore wind industry grows.”

As part of its application, Ocean Wind also executed an MOU with the South Jersey Building and Construction Trades Council to hire only union labor for construction. Ocean Wind also indicated that it would establish a Pro-NJ Grantor Trust with a $15 million initial investment to enable minority and women business enterprise and small business entry into the offshore wind industry. Ørsted also made several other promises concerning the economic development benefits of Ocean Wind.

We are starting to speak with our colleagues throughout the North East about their experiences with Wind Energy companies, including Ørsted. We are asking if these companies, including Ørsted, have made the same representations in other states and have equally failed to deliver. We believe that it is incumbent upon you, as part of your investigation, to contact your colleagues regarding the concerns that have been raised. If these concerns are validated, we request that you terminate the award and immediately commence a new and more transparent process for Offshore Wind project applicants. This is of the utmost importance given the significant amount of public money being utilized to fund this project.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to working as partners in the development of the offshore wind industry in New Jersey.

Sincerely Yours,
Stephen M. Sweeney, Senate President | John Burzichelli, Assembly Deputy Speaker | Adam J. Taliaferro, Assembly Deputy Parliamentarian


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