A county in New Jersey unanimously voted against an offshore wind farm proposed along its coastline, citing the development’s potential negative environmental and tourism impact.
The Cape May Board of Commissioners voted (pdf) 4–0 this week on an ordinance opposing farms that are being developed by a Denmark-based firm, Orsted, under its Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2 projects. The county also indicated that it will seek legal avenues to block such projects and will appeal a New Jersey state utility permit that transfers property interests from county residents to Orsted.
The commissioners noted that upwards of 200 large windmills will be installed around nine miles off the coast of Cape May County and would be easily visible from its beaches. The project would also reportedly have two transmission line corridors with one substation located in Cape May County.
It also stated that Orsted did not listen to the county’s suggestions and attempted to “push aside” Cape May’s commissioners and transfer their authority to the “unelected members” of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.
“At first, the County of Cape May was interested in trying to work with Orsted to find a way forward, perhaps with some modifications to the project to reduce visual, environmental, and economic impacts,” Cape May County Board of Commissioners Director Len Desiderio said in a statement after the vote.
“We would like to see land-based offshore wind facilities and supply chain infrastructure built here in New Jersey, since that would create good opportunities for trade workers and others,” Desiderio also remarked. “But we cannot sit quietly by as hundreds of windmills are installed off our beaches as state and federal government agencies ignore our legitimate and serious concerns.”
Their resolution also said that the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy concluded that the construction of offshore wind projects along the East Coast won’t have much impact on the climate, according to a county news release issued on Thursday. The resolution, meanwhile, made reference to a study commissioned by Harvard University that windmill arrays may reduce sea breeze and trigger warmer ocean temperatures.
Desiderio also criticized Orsted. “As time went by, it became clear that Orsted was not interested in finding any compromise,” he alleged. “It is clear to us now that the approach among this foreign corporation and their partners in the state and federal governments is to build these things as fast as they can despite the potential for devastating environmental and economic impacts. On behalf of the people of Cape May County, we will not let that happen without a fight.”
Earlier in the week, the state Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued its final environmental impact statement for Ocean Wind 1, which is the final step before it makes a decision on whether the project can go ahead.
In March, a large number of Cape May residents turned out at a public forum to largely oppose the wind farm’s construction, according to local media reports at the time. It came as the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued a statement saying that wind farm projects are to blame for the whale deaths along the East Coast since late last year amid allegations that sonar mapping for the wind farms may have led to their deaths.
“As of March 2023, no offshore wind-related construction activities have taken place in waters off the New Jersey coast, and DEP is aware of no credible evidence that offshore wind-related survey activities could cause whale mortality,” the state environmental agency’s statement said.
However, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicates that at least 30 whales have washed up along the East Coast since Dec. 1, a spokesperson said in March. On March 16, four Republican Congressmen held a hearing in Wildwood, New Jersey, to call for a pause on all offshore wind projects.
Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) called for a pause on such work until the U.S. Government Accountability Office can investigate the “sufficiency of the environmental review processes for offshore wind projects.” He was joined by fellow Reps. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), and Scott Perry (R-Pa.) in promising additional hearings and demands for information, and claiming federal agencies have ignored expressions of concern by one of their own scientists about the effects of wind farms on whales.
A federal agency, the Mammal Marine Commission, issued a report (pdf) earlier this year that said the deaths are “not new, nor are they unique to the U.S. Atlantic coast.” It also claimed that “there is no evidence to link these strandings to offshore wind energy development.”
Cape May County, with a population of about 95,000 people, is the southernmost county in New Jersey.
The Epoch Times has contacted Orsted for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.