Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., has once again vetoed legislation to allow the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to approve qualified offshore wind projects and offer a 30-day window for developers to submit applications.
The governor pocket vetoed similar legislation in January. The latest legislation, S.988/A.3903, passed the Senate by a 23-11 vote in February and the Assembly by a 53-21 vote in March.
Specifically, the bill would have directly benefited Cape May, N.J.-based Fishermen’s Energy and its long-delayed 25 MW proposed project off the coast of Atlantic City.
Previously denied by the BPU, the project has since secured a $47 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, changed turbine suppliers and was “due for a fresh look,” said Chris Wissemann, CEO of Fishermen’s, after the bill was passed in the assembly. Wissemann has no comment regarding the governor’s latest decision.
“Gov. Christie keeps getting it wrong on offshore wind,” says Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “Even innocuous legislation to allow for an application to the BPU gets deep-sixed by his veto pen. This legislation would have given a second chance for the Fishermen’s Energy project to re-apply to the BPU. Instead, Gov. Christie’s veto only makes it more likely that we’ll watch offshore wind be built off the coasts of other states during his term.”
Earlier this year, Environment New Jersey’s research and policy center released “Turning to the Wind,” which documented that as much as 1.7 GW of wind power could be built in the state in the next five years with the right policies in place. However, the group notes, the current expansion of offshore wind has been stymied by the Christie administration’s BPU, which has consistently failed to move forward on offshore wind since the governor signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (OWEDA) in 2010.
In addition, O’Malley says Environment New Jersey “urge[s] the legislature to override the governor on this legislation.”
In a letter to the Senate stating his reasoning for vetoing the bill, Christie says the legislation “seeks to usurp BPU’s authority by compelling BPU to immediately receive applications.”
“This is a notable departure from OWEDA, which appropriately defers to BPU to determine when it will accept applications. Accordingly, I cannot endorse a bill that would run contrary to OWEDA’s original intent by taking discretion away from BPU, the entity responsible for managing energy matters on behalf of the state,” he writes to the Senate.
Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, a sponsor of the Assembly bill, adds, “This bill would have simply allowed revised applications like the Fisherman’s Energy project off the coast of Atlantic City to be heard again. Fisherman’s Energy heeded the advice of the BPU and revised their application – making it more cost-effective, among other changes.”
He continues, “By blocking legislation mandating the BPU to revisit applications, the governor has failed to honor the OWEDA pledge he signed in 2010 to green our environment and green our economy.”