Middle Township, NJ: On May 23, 2023, the Cape May County Board of County Commissioners unanimously passed Resolution 314-23. The Resolution contains eight pages of details about the County of Cape May’s efforts to engage with the Danish wind corporation, Orsted, in order to try to find common ground and mitigate some of the negative impacts of Orsted’s Ocean Wind One offshore wind generation facilities project. Orsted has conceded that if it constructs its Ocean Wind One and Ocean Wind Two offshore wind farm projects, windmills will be visible from every beach in Cape May County and from elevated positions offshore.
The Resolution contains references to a conclusion by the United States Bureau of Ocean Energy management that the construction of multiple offshore wind projects along the East Coast of the United States will have little to no positive impact on global warming and climate change. The Resolution also cites a Harvard University study that concludes that large, offshore windmill arrays will significantly reduce sea breeze and result in warmer surface temperatures, especially in the vicinity of the wind farms. The Harvard study also concludes that the construction and operation of offshore wind industry electric power generation facilities will have a more substantial negative impact on climate change than oil and coal over the next decade.
Perhaps most disconcerting is the Resolution’s reference to the potential negative impacts on Cape May County’s tourism-based economy. A study cited by Orsted itself on its website indicates that an estimated 15% of tourists will not return once the windmills are installed. Cape May County has a $7.4 Billion annual tourism economy. This would amount to a potential $1.11 Billion loss in Cape May County spread across multiple sectors such as food service, hospitality, retail, rental housing and others.
The Resolution also details how the Danish Company Orsted and its partners at the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities have used the New Jersey Offshore Wind Economic Development Act to push aside County and local elected officials in an attempt to eliminate local objection and concerns.
The Cape May County Board of Commissioners has authorized the reasonable use of all County resources to oppose the Orsted windmill projects. As of the date of the passage of the Resolution, the County of Cape May has appealed a decision of the NJBPU authorizing Orsted’s state permit applications and taking real property interests from the people of the County of Cape May and transferring them to the foreign offshore wind company. The County of Cape May is engaged in a review of state and federal permitting processes with an eye toward possible legal challenges.
“At first, the County of Cape May was interested in trying to work with Orsted to find a way forward, perhaps with some modifications to the project to reduce visual, environmental and economic impacts,” said Cape May County Board of Commissioners Director Len Desiderio. “We would like to see land-based offshore wind facilities and supply chain infrastructure built here in New Jersey, since that would create good opportunities for trade workers and others. But we cannot sit quietly by as hundreds of windmills are installed off our beaches as state and federal government agencies ignore our legitimate and serious concerns.”
Desiderio continued, “As time went by, it became clear that Orsted was not interested in finding any compromise. It is clear to us now that the approach among this foreign corporation and their partners in the state and federal governments is to build these things as fast as they can despite the potential for devastating environmental and economic impacts. On behalf of the people of Cape May County, we will not let that happen without a fight.”
In the effort to oppose the Orsted Ocean Wind One project, the County of Cape May has engaged the law firm of Cultural Heritage Partners based in Virginia, the environmental consulting group Warwick Consulting based in Washington, D.C., and for the past two years has had former County Administrator and former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael J. Donohue serving as Special Counsel and coordinator for offshore wind issues.
“Along with the City of Ocean City, the County of Cape May is fighting in the Appellate Division of the Superior Court,” Donohue said. “The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, with its President, other members, and staff, after announcing that they are “partners” with Orsted and wearing wind turbine blade lapel pins, deprived the County and Ocean City of required due process and acted in an indefensibly biased and unfair fashion in ruling in favor of the Danish wind company and against the duly elected officials of Ocean City and the County. The Commissioners have authorized the exploration of legal challenges on all fronts, including challenges to NJDEP permits and a host of federal permits that will be issued over the coming months. The Commissioners have also authorized an aggressive public education campaign, which the County will be undertaking as we move through the summer months so that all of our second homeowners and small business operators can gain a better understanding of the potentially devastating impacts from the Orsted Ocean Wind One project and other wind projects that are slated to be constructed along our beaches.”
Interested members of the community are encouraged to visit capewindinfo.com as well as the County of Cape May’s social media pages for more information and to keep up to date on the County’s efforts in opposition to the industrialization of the Atlantic Ocean off of Cape May County.