June 1, 2023

By Hank Greenberg

Elected officials and environmental advocates from across the Garden State gathered together at a press conference on May 30 to voice their support of offshore wind development in New Jersey.

Atlantic County Commissioner Caren Fitzpatrick, Burlington County Commissioner, Shayna Steingard of the National Wildlife Federation, and Burlington County Commissioner Balvir Singh, were speakers at the conference.  The panel was moderated by Dominic Frongillo, who is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA). (Photo names of particiapants from top left to right and lower left to right as listed in the description.)

To open the meeting, Frongillo stressed the importance of offshore wind in the collective effort to combat climate change.  

“As our economy is transitioning to a clean economy, transitioning to electric heating and electric transportation, the requirement for clean power is going to grow,” Frongillo said. “That’s where offshore wind farms are going to play an absolutely essential role.” 

Frongillo said EOPA chose to highlight New Jersey’s efforts to establish offshore wind because they have the largest ambitions of any east coast state.      

“The state’s goals are the largest for offshore wind on the Eastern Seaboard: 11 gigawatts by 2040,” Frongillo said. “It’s a huge goal. Developers bid more than $4 billion to lease those areas off of the New Jersey coast. Offshore wind is a huge opportunity for offshore wind for New Jersey.”

Southern New Jersey would stand to gain the most— 

Southern New Jersey has geography uniquely suited for offshore wind development.

“We are situated perfectly. Our manufacturing area in Salem County in the southwestern part of the state is perfectly situated to create and build the turbines, the monopiles, and the bases,” Fitzpatrick stated. “They can just ship them down the Delaware River and out to the shallow and onto the wide continental shelf. It is perfectly situated for installing wind farms. There is no other place on the East Coast that has such a perfect geographical situation for that.”

Fitzpatrick emphasized southern New Jersey’s need to capitalize on this opportunity before it passes by. 

“The question is: Is New Jersey going to be the leader or is another state or region going to be the leader?” Fitzpatrick asked. “It’s happening and we want to be the leaders. We want to be able to reap the economic benefits of the jobs. From my point of view, southern New Jersey has suffered neglect. We need this. We need this industry in southern New Jersey.” 

Singh stated that if southern New Jersey receives an economic boost, it will help the surrounding areas as well.

“While we do not have a shoreline, economic growth in one part of the state has positive impacts for the whole state,” Singh said. “Offshore wind is consistent day and night. It is key to our clean energy future to power our EVs and homes. It is key to lift up environmental justice communities by providing training for union jobs. Offshore wind power and other renewable energy sources will drive the transition of electrification of transportation.”

Offshore wind could bring hundreds of thousands of jobs to New Jersey— 

Fitzpatrick commented on the scale of the offshore wind industry.

“A study in 2022 said that the state can expect an additional almost 315,000 jobs in the next ten years, based on the current clean energy policies and investments,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have an opportunity in southern New Jersey to become a nationwide hub to service the entire east coast.”

Singh reiterated that his support for offshore wind is based on economic principles.

“As a county, we stand united behind the offshore wind development plan because it will create thousands of good paying union jobs,” Singh said. “In addition to making New Jersey a leader in clean energy, we believe that it will make our communities more resilient and will generate economic benefits for our state and the surrounding region.”

Fitzpatrick also noted that the jobs created will exist for all people, regardless of their educational background.

“There have been [recent] announcements about the maintenance technician programs that are opening,” Fitzpatrick said. “Our community college built an entirely new facility to train technicians here in Atlantic City. These technician jobs, which start at $65,000 or $70,000 a year, are for Atlantic City residents first and they do not require a college degree, high school, or GED.” 

These job opportunities are being threatened by big oil companies—

There is an active campaign against New Jersey’s burgeoning offshore wind industry. Fitzpatrick described the tactics that the big oil companies use.

“The oil companies are behind the opposition,” Fitzpatrick said. “The nonprofit groups like the Save [Long Beach Island] Coalition and the American Coalition for Ocean Protection are linked to the Caesar Rodney Institute, which has direct connection to Koch Industries.”

The opposition to the offshore wind industry has resorted to spreading misinformation. Specifically, the oil companies have perpetuated the false claim that the new turbines will kill birds, and that survey ships kill whales.

“I want to try to educate people regarding the misinformation that’s been put out. These organizations are gathering people together and telling them that all the money’s going to go to Denmark,” Fitzpatrick said. “[They claim] that climate change won’t be impacted by renewable energy and that we’re going to be harming animals. None of those things are true.”

Steingard backed up Fitzpatrick. Steingard explained how the development of the offshore wind industry will help maintain biodiversity in marine ecosystems.

“We’re in the midst of both a climate crisis and biodiversity crisis,” Steingard said. “Our [National Wildlife Federation] offshore wind team works in this political space to ensure that we address the pressing threats of climate change… The responsible development of offshore wind avoids adverse impacts on wildlife and habitats.”