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New Jersey faces lawsuit over offshore wind project

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(The Center Square) — A coalition of groups are suing to block New Jersey’s first offshore wind project, arguing that it will hurt marine life, the state’s fishing and tourism industries and the local economy.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, argues that the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management fast-tracked approval of the Ocean Wind 1 project without conducting a required federal review of the potential impact to the environment, historic properties along the coastline and the state’s commercial fishing industry.

In the 71-page complaint, lawyers for the plaintiffs claim that in the push to develop offshore wind, the Biden administration has “shortcut the statutory and regulatory requirements that were enacted to protect our nation’s environmental and natural resources, its industries, and its people.”

The coalition argues in the legal filing that developing offshore wind farms in New Jersey raises “significant concerns” about the impact on the fishing industry, whales and other marine life and tourism in coastal communities. They say it will negatively impact property values, tax revenues and the local economy.

“With a loss in tourism, shops, historic properties, restaurants, rental properties, and home values will decline in value and demand, and the spirit, culture, and rich history of the Jersey Shore will be lost,” they wrote in the complaint.

The legal challenge was filed by Cape May County and its chamber of commerce along with a coalition of groups, including Clean Ocean Action, the Garden State Seafood Association and other fishing and hospitality associations. It also names U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

Ørsted’s Ocean Wind I project, which received approval from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in July, calls for building nearly 100 towering wind turbines about 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City. The project still faces many hurdles, including state and federal permits.

The company also plans to develop Ocean Wind 2, a similarly situated 1,148-megawatt offshore wind project that will add enough electricity to power an additional half-million homes.

New Jersey is already facing a lawsuit over Ocean Wind 1, filed by two citizens groups, which asks a state Superior Court judge to declare unconstitutional a law granting Ørsted Wind an estimated $1 billion in tax breaks.

Gov. Phil Murphy and Democrats are pushing to put the coastal state at the forefront of the nation’s nascent offshore wind industry. They argue that the tax relief was needed to help the company deal with inflation and the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Jersey Republicans strongly criticized the plan, which they said would cost the state an estimated $1 billion and shift the cost of developing offshore wind to taxpayers.

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