Ocean City seeks to hijack wind power plan | Local News

OCEAN CITY — City attorney Dorothy McCrosson took aim at the plan to run a power line through the city at 35th Street during a Friday morning State Board of Public Utilities hearing, arguing there is other options for bringing wind power to shore.

BPU’s board of directors heard oral arguments in an application for Ocean Wind 1, planned as the first large-scale offshore wind farm off the coast of New Jersey that is expected to power half a million homes.

First of all, wind power has to get to land. As attorney Greg Eisenstark, speaking on behalf of the plaintiff, said, there are no consumers of electricity in the ocean.

He added that there are few practical options along the coast to bring electricity from the ocean to the power grid. As proposed, the project would bring power to the former BL England factory on the bay shore of Great Egg Harbor in Upper Township, with another landing site at the former Oyster Creek nuclear power station in Ocean County.

Ocean City disagrees with the plan and has refused permission to cross its jurisdiction. Last year, the state legislature took the case out of the city’s hands, approving a law that allowed the BPU to approve the request.

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The law angered Ocean City officials when it was approved, with city council members describing it as an overriding Democratic rule. Speaking to the BPU board on Friday, McCrosson questioned whether the BPU had the power to decide the issue and criticized the law as being hastily passed and overbroad.

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“This deprives elected municipal officials of the power to decide whether Ocean Wind, a private corporation, can take municipal property rights in Ocean City, in complete disregard of the will of the governing body and its constituents,” he said. she stated, adding that the law has not been tested in court.

In the meeting held remotely on Friday, the BPU heard arguments about whether to allow power lines to cross under land purchased with funds through the state’s Green Acres program, which generally protects against future development. .

Eisenstark said it would include about half an acre of land protected by Green Acres, adding that applicants would contribute 10 times the estimated value of the property to the Green Acres fund.

No decision was made on Friday. BPU President Joseph Fiordaliso said that would happen at an upcoming meeting, the date of which has yet to be determined.

McCrosson asked the board not to decide anything, or at least to consider alternate routes. She pointed to an alternative that would run the power lines through the Great Egg Harbor Inlet and to the Beesleys Point Power Station.

“The pristine beach and the city’s wetlands would not be disturbed, the streets would not be dug up,” McCrosson said. “Ocean City would still bear the aesthetic effects of this project, and whatever consequences they may cause. However, the island would not be degraded and the activities of the inhabitants of the island would not be interrupted.

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Eisenstark said the candidate doesn’t need to come up with the best plan, but rather present a reasonable plan to the BPU. As proposed, the route of the line would be drilled approximately 60 feet below the beach at 34th Street, then paralleled streets, set up as water lines or other utilities before crossing under Crook Horn Creek to enter the upper canton.

“Once construction is complete, the lines will no longer be visible. You won’t see them, you won’t hear them, you won’t even know they’re there,” Eisenstark said. Later in the hearing, McCrosson added that residents will also not be able to smell them, but will know they are there, and if this goes ahead, they will have been placed there without the consent of local elected officials.

Eisenstark said Ocean Wind would have negotiated a deal with the city instead but was unable to come to an agreement. He argued that the city had refused to be part of the process earlier and accused McCrosson of presenting evidence in his closing arguments that should have been given by witnesses in earlier hearings.

He suggested much of what McCrosson said should be struck from the record, saying she was a lawyer, not an expert.

McCrosson responded that much of what she presented was included in a lengthy draft environmental impact statement, which only became available this week.

In that statement, she argued, Ocean Wind outlines plans to run a power line to the old Oyster Creek plant similar to the rejected route for Great Egg Harbor Inlet.

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She added that the city could not have provided this information sooner, as the report had only recently been made available.

“I believe it’s only 1,400 pages, so I guess everyone has read it cover to cover,” Fiordaliso told the audience.

Ocean Wind is a joint venture between Ørsted and PSE&G, with a plan to place nearly 100 large turbines around 15 miles offshore. New Jersey selected the project in 2019. It is expected to be the first of several large-scale wind power projects for the Northeast, with the adjacent Ocean Wind 2 also going through the permitting process.

Plans are for the turbines to power homes by 2024.

Governor Phil Murphy, a proponent of wind power, wants a dramatic increase in the use of renewable energy in New Jersey. He cites the environmental impact, including the danger of rising seas and warming temperatures as fossil fuels continue to add carbon to the atmosphere, but also says the projects will mean thousands of new jobs.

The proposal is deeply unpopular in Ocean City and other coastal towns. Opponents cite the visual impact – the turbines will be visible from the beach as proposed – and also say the plan will damage the environment and the commercial fishing industry.

At several points in the hearing, McCrosson suggested the proposal would face a similar process to obtain approvals to cross areas belonging to Cape May County.

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