Three groups are suing New Jersey to block an offshore wind farm

LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Three anti-wind power groups are suing New Jersey to overturn a key environmental approval for a wind energy farm planned off the coast of Long Beach Island.

Save Long Beach Island, Defend Brigantine Beach and Protect Our Coast NJ filed suit in appellate court on April 26 challenging a determination by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection that the Atlantic Shores wind farm project meets the requirements of a federal coastal protection law.

Atlantic Shores is one of three proposed wind farms off New Jersey’s coast that have preliminary approval.

Bruce Afran, an attorney for the groups, said the state’s “approval flies in the face of the federal regulator’s environmental impact statement that says the Atlantic Shores project will damage marine habitat, compress and harden the seafloor, damage marine communities, compromise migration corridors for endangered species, and cause commercial fishing stocks to decline.”

The same three groups challenged a wind farm proposed by the Danish wind energy company Orsted, which scrapped the project in October.

The lawsuit was the latest obstacle facing New Jersey’s quest to become the East Coast leader in offshore wind. These three groups are among the most vocal and litigious opponents of offshore wind projects.

The New Jersey attorney general’s office declined comment on the pending litigation, and Atlantic Shores did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

But Joshua Henne, a political strategist advising several groups fighting climate change, accused the anti-wind groups of acting in league with the fossil fuel industry.

“There ain’t nothing grassroots about this effort,” he said. “It’s astroturf, seeded by the fossil fuel industry.”

Robin Shaffer, president of Protect Our Coast, rejected that claim.

“We have never taken one penny from any entity linked to the fossil fuel industry,” he said. “Not one.”

Up until a year ago, the group used the Caesar Rodney Institute to hold its money. The Delaware-based group is part of a group of think tanks supporting and funded by fossil fuel interests, according to the Energy and Policy Institute.

Caesar Rodney charged Protect Our Coast a 12% fee to hold its money, Shaffer said, adding his group currently has no relationship with the institute.

He also noted that one of the owners of Atlantic Shores is an affiliate of Shell, the global oil and gas company.

Shaffer said state and federal officials are racing to approve offshore wind projects without adequately considering potential negative impacts.

“It’s as if they are building an airplane while it’s in the air, only they have no idea where the plane is headed, or if it can be landed safely,” he said.

Jason Ryan, a spokesman for the American Clean Power Association, said the current slate of offshore wind projects is “among the most carefully planned and analyzed infrastructure projects in U.S. history; we are confident their permits will withstand legal scrutiny.”

Earlier this week, New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities opened a fourth round of solicitations for additional offshore wind projects.

The state has set a goal of generating 100% of its power from clean sources by 2035.


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