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Brigantine residents express concerns about offshore wind projects

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Calling climate change "a clear and present danger" to the nation, President Joe Biden said Wednesday he will take actions in the coming weeks on his own to address the climate "emergency," just days after an influential Democratic senator quashed hopes for a sweeping legislative package of new environmental programs. "As president, I have a responsibility to act with urgency and resolve when our nation faces clear and present danger. And that's what climate change is about," Biden said. "The health of our citizens and our communities is literally at stake." Biden made the announcement during a visit to a former coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, that is shifting to offshore wind manufacturing. It's the embodiment of the transition to clean energy that Biden is seeking but has struggled to realize in the first 18 months of his presidency. The executive actions Biden will take include new initiatives to bolster the domestic offshore wind industry as well as a continuation of efforts to help communities cope with soaring temperatures through programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies.

BRIGANTINE — Having clean energy as a renewable resource may sound nice, but residents still have questions and concerns about the offshore wind projects planned just off the island’s coast, which is why the mayor held an informational meeting last weekend.

Nearly 100 residents, second homeowners and public officials attended the forum Saturday at the Brigantine Community School to discuss the projects and their potential impacts on the barrier island.

Ørsted’s offshore wind farms, which are expected to have 98 wind turbines roughly 15 miles off the coast, are scheduled to be completed by 2024. Meanwhile, 111 Atlantic Shores offshore wind turbines are expected to be operational 10 miles off Brigantine by 2027.

“There are good things that are going to come about this, as well as the negative impacts that we’re going to talk about today,” Mayor Vince Sera said at the meeting.

Aided by a slide presentation from Dr. Doug Zemeckis of Rutgers University, Sera described the windmill projects and how they could affect commercial fishing, boat traffic, navigation and the ecosystem.

Many residents said the cons outweigh the pros.

“I’m just trying to figure out the positives in this,” said resident Mary Anne Ford. “The pro column is a big blank slate.”

Sera countered Ford’s statement, saying the wind farms would offer opportunities for jobs, education for residents and a chance to create a profitable industry locally, since a surplus of energy generated from the windmills could be sold to neighboring states like New York or Pennsylvania.

Second homeowner Susanne Moore said there needed to be more information accessible to those who don’t live on the island year-round, while many residents who spoke worried that the sight of the 1,200-foot windmills would be a detriment to the area, specifically property values.

Sera said neither of the offshore wind companies has provided an accurate visual of what the windmills would look like from the beach, but each is expected to be around the size of the Empire State Building.

Visibility is also one of the main concerns for other shore towns including Ocean City, whose representatives were at the Brigantine meeting Saturday.

A significant number of Ocean City residents are largely against the offshore wind project, noting environmental and visibility issues. Ørsted’s Ocean Wind project includes running a power line from the wind farm under the beach and across Ocean City to the former B.L England power plant in Upper Township, where the energy generated by the wind farm would enter the power grid.

Ocean Wind has a petition filed with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to use a little more than a half-acre of land owned by Ocean City that’s listed as open space under the state’s Green Acres program, which residents are also concerned about.

Sera said Brigantine was working with state Sen. Vince Polistina, R-Atlantic, and U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, to get Gov. Phil Murphy to address the offshore wind projects.

Murphy has said the wind industry is a new economic driver that will help wean the United States off fossil fuels.

In September, the governor signed Executive Order No. 307, which raises the state's offshore wind power goal to 11,000 megawatts by 2040, as he pushes for New Jersey to be a leading contributor in clean energy.

Murphy also said on WNYC’s “Ask the Governor” program last weekend that the wind projects should be out farther since shore communities like those on Long Beach Island had expressed concerns about visual impact.

Sera said if the wind turbines could go out farther, they would benefit all shore communities.

Residents also expressed concerns about how the wind farms would affect the island’s marine life, habitat and fishing industries, alleging a lack of environmental studies.

Sera said the lack of in-depth environmental impact studies was why a group of LBI residents was filing a lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

But Lisa Landers, a BOEM representative present at the third and final public hearing planned to accept comments on a draft environmental impact statement on the Ocean Wind proposal, said the adverse impacts outlined in the report would be “negligible to moderate.”

The more than 1,400-page report will help guide the federal permitting process for Ocean Wind, the farthest along of several offshore wind projects in the pipeline. A final report is expected by March 2023, with Ørsted and PSEG predicting the project will be operational by 2024. Once the blades start turning, the project is expected to power a half-million homes.

“I hope people understand that this is bigger than we realize,” Sera told the crowd. “It has much bigger impacts than we understand, and we need to make sure that whatever decisions we make as one whole community, we do it right. Because we don’t get a second chance on this.”

There’s a virtual meeting Oct. 27 with Atlantic Shores representatives, but because the meeting is moderated and questions have to be submitted beforehand, Sera said he plans to hold another community meeting with Atlantic Shores representatives present Nov. 12 at the Brigantine Community Center.

Contact Selena Vazquez: 609-272-7225 svazquez@pressofac.com

"I'm just trying to figure out the positives in this. The pro column is a big blank slate."

Mary Anne Ford

Brigantine resident

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