Citizen Action Groups Challenge Offshore Wind Contracts in New Jersey Appeals Court

In a significant development, grassroots organizations in New Jersey, namely Defend Brigantine Beach and Downbeach (DBB) and Protect Our Coast New Jersey (POCNJ), have taken legal action against the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU). The groups have filed notices of appeal in the state Appellate Court, contesting the legality of recent NJBPU Orders granting Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Certificate (OREC) contracts to offshore wind project developers Attentive Energy LLC and Leading Light Wind LLC.

The appeals primarily challenge the substantial financial implications of the contracts, which entitle the developers to payments averaging more than 15 cents/kwh for 3742 MW of power over 20 years. This is compared to the 6 cents/kwh wholesale price of power available to state utilities. Represented by attorney Bruce I. Afran of Princeton, the citizen action groups argue that these contracts violate state law and fail to prioritize the interests of ratepayers.

Moreover, the appeals highlight the lack of transparency in the NJBPU’s decision-making process, with concerns raised about the secrecy surrounding the solicitation and award of contracts to offshore wind developers. Critical information, including the analysis from the New Jersey Rate Counsel, has been redacted from public records, raising questions about the basis for the NJBPU’s decisions.

Keith Moore of Defend Brigantine Beach expressed concerns about the potential financial burden on residents, with projected increases in power costs estimated to reach up to $20 billion. The appeals also emphasize the adverse economic impacts on commercial and industrial users, potentially leading to job losses and business closures.

Edward O’Donnell of Whitestrand Consulting, who prepared a report in support of the appeal, highlighted the discrepancy between the exorbitant prices for power from these projects and the minimal economic and environmental benefits to the state. Robin Shaffer, president of POCNJ, echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the disproportionate financial strain on ratepayers and taxpayers.

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In addition to the economic concerns, opponents of the wind farms underscored the negligible impact on climate change, as acknowledged by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The anticipated legal proceedings in the appeals court are expected to provide a platform for further examination of these issues, with a decision anticipated in late 2024 or early 2025.

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