Christie’s Slow-Go On Offshore Wind: Costing NJ Jobs?

In a state struggling to create jobs, you’d think Chris Christie would move with lightning speed to cash in on the opportunities presented by offshore wind power. But that’s not what’s happening, according to wind supporters in the state.

The Sierra Club’s New Jersey chapter is pressuring the governor – the headline speaker at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., tonight – to stop dragging his feet in implementing key provisions of an offshore wind bill that Christie signed into law, with no small fanfare, two years ago.

Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, new jersey

Gov. Chris Christie signing offshore wind law in 2010 (image via Office of the Governor)

On Monday, the club’s leadership joined New Jersey legislators at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal to demand the state’s Board of Public Utilities finalize regulations on offshore renewable energy credits, which the wind advocates say would unleash job-creating investment in offshore wind in the state – at Paulsboro.

“The governor came to that spot two years ago to sign the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act,” Sierra Club New Jersey Chapter Director Jeff Tittel said in an interview. “More than a year after it should have happened, we’re still waiting for his administration to implement the law.”

The law signed in 2010 included up to $100 million in tax credits to encourage the wind industry to bring manufacturing and assembly facilities to Paulsboro, a brownfield where BP once stored petroleum and bulk chemicals.

“We’ve got the opportunity to transform this site,” Tittel said, “but it’s not an opportunity that is going to be there forever. It’s a competitive world and we need to move fast.”

Tittel said Christie is playing a game of supporting offshore wind rhetorically while at home in New Jersey, but going slow on it in order to avoid losing support of elements of the Republican Party who oppose it. That’s a sentiment Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, also holds. “I honestly believe that it’s being held up by national politics,” Sweeney told NJ Spotlight.

Last year, the Christie administration bragged that 11 developers had submitted proposals to develop wind projects off the coast, and said “nearly 500 companies … could become involved in the development of wind power through the construction of wind turbines and supply chain support.”

In February, the Obama administration announced that leases for offshore wind development off Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware would be issued by the end of 2012 after an environmental review resulted in a finding of no significant environmental impact.

“The interest is there,” Tittel said. “But the industry is leering of investing without the law implemented, and the more it’s delayed, the more New Jersey’s opportunity slips away.”

As to why the state is being so laggard in putting the law to work, according to NJ Spotlight, “Bob Hanna, the president of the (Board of Public Utilities), previously said it recognizes the potential problem that funds for offshore wind developers may be diverted and hopes to come up with a solution this fall.”

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.