Bill removing local control of N.J. wind power lines approved
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Local communities would be stripped of most control over where and how power lines from offshore wind energy projects come ashore under a bill that received final approval Thursday in the state Legislature.
It now heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
The bill would give wind energy projects approved by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities authority to locate, build, use and maintain wires and associated land-based infrastructure as long as they run underground on public property including streets. The BPU could determine that some aboveground wires are necessary.
It appears to be an effort to head off any local objections to at least one wind power project envisioned to come ashore at two former power plants, and run cables under two of the state’s most popular beaches.
After officials in some shore towns objected to the bill last week during a hearing in the state Assembly, a provision was added that would require a public hearing on a proposed project.
“There's going to be a high level of seriousness given to local concerns,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, a southern New Jersey Democrat and sponsor of the bill.
But he said the goal of the bill is to give power lines from offshore wind projects the same level of presumptive approval as those from other energy sources.
“There is some misunderstanding with a small group trying to make sure offshore wind won't happen at all,” Burzichelli said. “We're way past that now.”
A project planned by Orsted and Public Service Enterprise Group, a New Jersey utility company, would connect to the electric grid at decommissioned power plants in Ocean and Cape May Counties.
Cables running from the wind farm, to be located between 15 and 27 miles off the coast of Atlantic City, would come ashore at one of three potential locations in Ocean City, and would run under a roadway to a former power plant in Upper Township.
Cables also would need to cross Island Beach State Park in Ocean County, running under the dunes and beach — and possibly existing parking lots — out into Barnegat Bay. They would come ashore either at the former Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in the Forked River section of Lacey, or in Waretown, also known as Ocean Township in Ocean County.
Orsted also proposes a second project off New Jersey, and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, a joint venture between EDF Renewables North America and Shell New Energies US LLC, also proposes an offshore wind farm off the state’s coast.
In addition, a Massachusetts company plans to build a high-voltage line to bring electricity from a future New Jersey offshore wind farm onto land, and connect it to the power grid. Anbaric, of Wakefield, Mass., has already obtained several permits from New Jersey environmental regulators for what it calls its Boardwalk Power Link project.
The bill entitles a qualified wind energy project to obtain easements, rights-of-way or other property rights from any level of government that are necessary to build the project. The BPU would make a final decision if such approvals are withheld by governments.
No state, county or local government would be able to prohibit or charge a fee for the use of a street or other public property other than a road opening permit. If these governments refuse the permit for any other reason than legitimate public safety concerns, the state utilities board would be required to issue an order granting the necessary approval.
If a company's project impacts land that had previously been preserved as open space, the company would have to provide money to acquire three times the amount of affected land as a replacement.
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