By MADDY VITALE and DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Opponents of a proposed offshore wind energy farm are intensifying their legal, political and public relations campaign against a project they say will create a “superhighway of windmills” in the ocean.
In the latest salvo against the Ocean Wind 1 project, Cape May County will hold an online forum on Saturday to present more arguments against the wind farm planned 15 miles off the South Jersey coast.
Cape May County Commission Director Leonard Desiderio, who is also the Sea Isle City mayor, said in a statement Wednesday that the wind farm forum will be a “factual presentation of our many concerns about the Orsted windmill projects.”
“We believe that the plan to create a superhighway of windmills should be subject to more specific and serious studies to answer the questions about the whale and dolphin deaths and other serious negative environmental and economic impacts that are likely to occur,” he said. “And if those studies show that our losses will be severe, then these windmills should not be built.”
The online forum closely follows the county’s hiring of more law firms to oppose the project in court and also to challenge state and federal regulatory permits needed for the wind farm.
The public is invited to join the livestreamed forum on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. The attendees will learn more about the potential negative impacts of Orsted’s Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2 offshore wind projects. The link Capewindinfo.com will go live at 10 a.m.
The forum will be geared toward residents, second homeowners and small business owners in Cape May County.
As proposed, Ocean Wind 1 would include 98 massive turbines 15 miles off the coast from Atlantic City to Stone Harbor. The Ocean Wind 2 project would stretch offshore from Barnegat to Atlantic City. Both projects would be developed by the Danish energy corporation Orsted.
The forum will be hosted by Desiderio and Republican Congressman Jeff Van Drew, the most prominent elected official in New Jersey who opposes the wind farm. Van Drew’s congressional district includes the shore communities in Atlantic and Cape May counties.
Attorney Michael Donohue, a former Superior Court Judge and Special Counsel to Cape May County, will also be on hand. Donohue is one of the attorneys representing Cape May County in its legal battle against Orsted.
Opponents of the wind farm say the project could result in irreversible ecological damage to marine life, including injury or death to thousands of marine species and wildlife.
They also fear that the project will harm tourism, property values, fishing and boating industries and create a visual blight when the towering wind turbines are viewed from the land.
One of the strongest opponents of the project is Protect Our Coast NJ, an independent, non-partisan grassroots group that has collected more than 500,000 signatures on an online petition calling for the immediate halt of preliminary work for the wind farm.
Protect Our Coast NJ is demanding an investigation of more than 30 whale deaths along the East Coast that Ocean Wind 1 opponents blame on sonar mapping of the ocean floor for the project.
Suzanne Hornick, an Ocean City resident and founder of Protect Our Coast NJ, is urging the public to participate in the online forum to learn more about the wind farm.
“It is in everyone’s best interest to preregister and speak out against offshore wind and the industrialization of our ocean and coast. You do not need to be a New Jersey homeowner or resident. The ocean belongs to all of us and is necessary for our survival,” Hornick said.
Hornick maintained that the outcome of the wind farm would be bad for everyone.
“It will destroy our communities, national security, food supply, fishing and seafood industries and more at a very high rise in electricity rates across the state,” she said. “All this and spending trillions of American taxpayers’ dollars for what? It says right in the environmental impact statements these things will not reduce carbon emissions or slow down climate change.”
Orsted continues to receive permitting and regulatory approvals, despite intense opposition from residents and lawmakers in the coastal communities.
Protect Our Coast NJ and two other grassroots groups, Save Long Beach Island and Defend Brigantine Beach, filed an appeal this month in state Superior Court seeking an answer on how the state determined that the Ocean Wind 1 project was consistent with state coastal management rules.
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.
Orsted’s Ocean Wind 1 project between Atlantic City and Stone Harbor would pass by Ocean City, Sea Isle and other beach communities in the process.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced in May that it has completed its environmental analysis of the Ocean Wind 1 project. It is a key preliminary step needed for construction of the wind farm.
“The BOEM publication of the Final EIS represents the culmination of years of thoughtful and thorough environmental studies, analyses, reviews and stakeholder interaction and engagement,” Katharine Perry, permit manager for Orsted, said in a statement. “It reinforces that Ocean Wind 1 can and will be developed with a clear focus on protecting and preserving New Jersey’s vast natural resources.”
A transmission line to connect the wind turbines with the land-based electric grid would run through parts of Ocean City and Marmora to a substation at the former B.L. England power plant in Upper Township. Ocean City and Cape May County are fighting in court to try to block the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approval of the transmission line.
To learn more about this issue go to Capewindinfo.com.