Offshore wind energy lease sale in N.Y., N.J. touted as eventual jobs creator

Some say development is going too fast, more planning is needed

  • Susan Phillips

Biden administration plans largest sale of offshore wind power leases in federal waters – six packages off the coasts of New Jersey and New York which cover 480,000 acres in what is known as the New York Bight, a section of the Atlantic Ocean that stretches from Cape May Point to the farthest tip of Long Island.

Officials say the wind farms would generate up to 7 gigawatts of energy, enough to power 2 million homes. It’s part of an administration push to move away from fossil fuels and toward renewables, and includes a goal of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power generation by 2030. New York’s offshore wind goals and New Jersey combined are aiming for 16 gigawatts by 2035.

Home Office Secretary Deb Haaland announced the sale of the lease on Wednesday, describing it as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” and saying the state collaboration is a national model. New Jersey and New York made a to push to attract offshore wind farms as well as manufacturing and network upgrades necessary to develop the booming industry.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler joined Haaland at the announcement, and each focused on the dual benefit of fighting the climate change and the creation of “tens of thousands” of jobs.

“Offshore wind is an opportunity to build a diverse, inclusive and equitable workforce,” Murphy said. “This is our chance to show that tackling climate change and creating well-paying union jobs…are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they go together. »

Murphy highlighted the development of the new wind port in Salem County and the new Paulsboro Marine Terminal. Together, he said, they will create 2,500 permanent jobs in South Jersey and “attract billions of dollars in investment”.

AFL-CIO President Shuler said wind power could contribute to the loss of union jobs in the oil and gas sector that would result from moving away from fossil fuels. Workers in those industries have not been big supporters of a shift to renewables, she said.

“They’ve been skeptical of the transition because they haven’t seen the same quality, stable clean energy careers that they have in the industries they’ve worked in in the past,” Shuler said. . “And there hasn’t been a historic commitment to high-quality jobs in the clean energy economy. But it doesn’t have to be like that. »

Lease stipulations would require union labor for construction and include incentives to use domestic supply chains. The plans also focus on environmental justice by requiring those who win the auction to identify and engage with tribes and other underserved communities, as well as other ocean users such as the marine industry. the Peach.

Scallop fishermen, clams and other sea workers along the Jersey coast fear massive wind farms will limit their catches and lead to the collapse fisheries. The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a fishing industry group, recently filed a trial against a proposed wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts.

The Federal Office of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which oversees lease sales, said it reduced lease area by 72% after consulting with the fishing industry.

But the industry says the administration is accelerating the development of industrial-scale offshore wind at the expense of the environment and sustainable fisheries.

“The frequency of announcements from BOEM about the progress of individual offshore wind projects is staggering and far exceeds the time required to conduct an intentional environmental review,” said Anne Hawkins, executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance. “Yet the agency has so far only involved fisheries experts through superficial advice and commentary, which has failed to resolve disputes, especially as fishermen are affected by multiple projects.

Hawkins said the current developers have not engaged enough with the fishing industry, nor have they addressed environmental impacts.

“We desperately need a programmatic and inclusive approach to achieving the twin goals of seafood sustainability and renewable energy,” she said. “New York Bay is a highly conflicted area, and issuing new leases before putting processes in place to mitigate the obvious risks this scale of development poses to historic food production and ecological resilience will lead to impacts devastating events that would have been largely preventable with careful attention. Planning.”

Communities and some environmentalists along the Jersey coast also oppose offshore wind, saying it will damage ecosystems and tourism.

Any further bid on the use of our waters by money-driven foreign companies without the public and all stakeholders having full input and following the required steps to move forward is unacceptable,” Suzanne said. Hornick, member of Protect Our Coast NJ.

The group opposes the current development plans of the Danish company Orsted as well as Shell Atlantic coasts off South Jersey. Hornick supports solar power, but says offshore wind will increase electricity rates, threaten the endangered North Atlantic right whale and pose a danger to ships.

Governor Murphy said he takes the concerns of fishermen and coastal communities “very seriously”.

“We think the worries are manageable,” he said. “We believe there are solutions to the concerns of both communities.”

The lease auction will take place on February 23.

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