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  • Writer's pictureDennis Levinson

Perspective/ Atlantic County Executive

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This issue of offshore wind farms off the coast of New Jersey has generated lots of attention and opposing opinions. Proponents argue it is a source of clean energy that will create jobs and help combat climate change. Opponents counter with concerns for its impact on marine life, tourism and fishing industries, and its cost to consumers.

Like many, I initially believed the offshore wind projects proposed off our coast sounded like a good idea with the expectation of as many as 3,000 new jobs during development in addition to full-time permanent jobs in operations and maintenance. We were told many of these jobs would require the same skills as those in aviation maintenance, thus aligning offshore wind with our efforts to develop the aviation industry and diversify the regional economy.

My only stipulation was that concerns about the impact of offshore wind on tourism, marine life, and fishing and boating, be satisfactorily addressed so the majority of residents and businesses could feel comfortable to move forward with these projects.

Numerous reports have since been issued with some conflicting data serving to continue the debate and controversy. Most recently, a lawsuit filed by eight shore towns, including Brigantine and Ventnor, in opposition of the Atlantic Shores project, was struck down by a Superior Court judge for having no legal standing.

Personally, I have my own very serious concerns about these projects, but as County Executive, I do not rule by decree. I represent the interests of residents from all 23 municipalities. Four of the five Atlantic County shore towns have voiced their opposition to the offshore wind projects with only Atlantic City standing in favor of them.

I, along with the Atlantic County Board of Commissioners, am being publicly called out by some opponents for our “indifference.” I assure you, our issue is not indifference but in having definitive facts on which to base our decisions that will impact the residents of all 23 municipalities who we collectively represent.

Opponents of offshore wind wonder why we are not taking the same stand as Cape May County officials to prevent these projects and send the developers packing. But contrary to popular belief, Cape May County may only enjoy a temporary reprieve. Orsted still maintains its lease for two projects. It apparently decided not to continue to fight all the negative publicity regarding economic and environmental damage after the mammals started washing ashore.

High inflation, rising costs and supply chain issues also contributed to Orsted’s decision to walk away. It is interesting to note that in Europe, 79 percent of new wind capacity last year was built onshore, not offshore. Onshore wind farms, like the one we constructed and maintain at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, are significantly less expensive.

Federal regulators have now approved new regulations to help fast track the offshore wind application and approval processes. Perhaps President Biden and Governor Murphy should have insisted on regulation standards and guidelines for offshore wind projects based on authorized impact studies before they pushed their agendas. Such regulations could identify the size, quantity, distance from shore, implementation methods, permissible locations of transmission lines, etc., and do so in cooperation with the local governments and industries (tourism, fishing, boating) they directly impact.

Dennis Levinson

County Executive


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