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New Jersey regulators take new look at wind, gas projects

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Regulators are taking a second look at large-scale energy projects proposed for both sides of New Jersey’s shoreline that involve wind energy and liquefied natural gas. State Senate President Steve Sweeney and two other legislators want the Board of Public Utilities to suspend approval of a proposed wind energy project off the coast of Atlantic City and consider whether to replace Orsted, the Danish company selected for the project, claiming it has not delivered enough economic benefits to the state and local communities.

That move came shortly before a regional commission placed a hold on its initial approval of a facility to accept natural gas recovered from Pennsylvania’s shale fields via hydraulic fracturing, and store it for eventual export.

In a letter sent Wednesday to the BPU, Sweeney said Orsted may have misrepresented what it could deliver in terms of economic benefits of the project. In particular, Sweeney, a Democrat, cited the failure to create a pole foundation facility in Paulsboro, and other promises on which he said the company has “failed to deliver.”

In a statement, Orsted said it learned of the letter from a reporter and was surprised by its contents, which the company disputes. It plans to live up to all its commitments to the state, the company “added.”

“We are still in the early stages of developing the state’s first commercial scale offshore wind farm,” the statement read. The process from start to finish is about seven years, and we are well on our way and working hard with our partners toward carefully and mindfully delivering on our $695 million in-state spend commitment. We are disappointed by this unexpected turn of events, but remain focused on the jobs, economic development and environmental benefits of offshore wind in New Jersey.”

New Jersey has long hoped to be a national leader in wind energy. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has set a goal of generating 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind energy in the state by 2035, enough to power 3.2 million homes.

Sweeney’s letter arrived the same day the state agreed to a second round of bid solicitations for additional offshore wind projects. On Thursday, the Delaware River Basin Commission voted to stay its initial approval of a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in a section of Greenwich Township in Gloucester County along the Delaware River at the site of a former DuPont explosives plant.

Proposed by Delaware River Partners, a subsidiary of New Fortress Energy, the project would provide a transit point for liquefied natural gas by rail, truck and boat. The commission voted to put its initial approval on hold until an appeal brought by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network can be decided. That moved had the practical effect of preventing the company from beginning construction soon, said Maya van Rossum, the environmental organization’s chief executive officer.

The resolution was introduced by Ken Kosinsky, representing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the commission, and was adopted with New York, New Jersey and Delaware voting yes, and Pennsylvania abstaining.

A coalition of six environmental groups asked a federal judge last month to block a new Trump administration rule allowing rail shipments of liquefied natural gas. Delaware River Partners predicted the project eventually will be approved.

“The project has been through extensive environmental and regulatory review processes and has received approval from multiple federal, state and local agencies,” said spokesman Jeff Sheridan. "When the project begins, it will provide much needed job opportunities and significant growth to the local tax base.”

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, was encouraged by the commission’s vote. “It’s a win any time you get a delay on a bad project,” he said. “We hope with more time, (the commission) will realize how bad this project is, and stop it.”

This story has been corrected to show that Orsted is a Danish company, not a Dutch company.

Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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