Van Drew: Why South Jersey Needs Congressional Hearings on Offshore Wind Energy
Since the very beginning, I have expressed my heartfelt concerns that these offshore wind projects are moving far too quickly and have failed to receive proper vetting and local input. In the years following their announcement, my concerns have only continued to mount.
I am tired of being misled by big corporations, lectured by elites on what we must be willing to accept, and sold out by our own government, which is all too willing to ship our hard-earned money overseas. I remain deeply concerned that these offshore wind projects are the latest, and perhaps most egregious, example of this sad reality.
The recent whale deaths have served as a wakeup call, bringing renewed and necessary attention to potentially the greatest threat our regional economy has faced since we defeated North Jersey casinos. In years past, if several dead whales washed ashore on Atlantic and Cape May County beaches over the course of a few weeks, it would have set off environmental alarm bells. Yet, for some reason, we are told by environmental groups that everything is “fine” and that additional investigations relating to their cause of death are completely unnecessary.
Let’s take their word for it, despite their questionable financial ties to these offshore wind companies and say it’s all just a big coincidence. Why not conduct an investigation to be sure? We have yet to see any comprehensive and unbiased study regarding the impacts these windfarms could have on the ocean floor, marine life and the Mid-Atlantic Cold Pool, which is home to some of the most sustainably managed fisheries in the world. And how exactly do these companies intend to dispose of windmill blades no longer in use since our understanding is they cannot be recycled?
What about the potential negative impacts on the regional economy? We have heard from hundreds of local commercial and recreational fishermen about the devastating impact these windfarms could have on one of the state’s largest industries. Keep in mind that in Europe, fishing is generally prohibited where you have these large commercial windfarms. Will that be the case here? No one seems to know. We have tried for years to bring people together so that fishermen could have their concerns heard and questions answered from offshore wind companies on how these two industries can coexist. Yet thus far, straight answers have eluded us.
Let’s not forget that here in South Jersey, we have a largely seasonal economy that relies heavily on tourism and the tax revenue it generates. How can anyone say with a straight face that industrializing our entire coastline would have no impact on people wanting to come and vacation here? Of course, there is going to be an impact. It would be irresponsible of us to not try and determine what that impact would be on the economy, such as home values, rentals, hotel stays and local small businesses. The best course of action is finding out today, rather than being blindsided years from now.
New Jersey’s ratepayer advocate has indicated that utility bills could increase dramatically because of offshore wind, but the exact amount is unclear given the lack of transparency surrounding these projects. You deserve to know how much more your government will expect you to pay as a result of these projects being rammed through approval processes without full consideration of their real-world impacts.
We have also been led to believe that all of South Jersey stands to benefit from the local construction of the wind turbines. However, it remains unclear if residents will be employed to construct them from start to finish, or if they will be constructed overseas and shipped here for final assembly. It is a stark distinction with a very real difference for the lives of many throughout the district. Additionally, rumors of tax windfalls for municipalities as a result of these projects continue to swirl, yet we have not seen any concrete evidence that this will be the case. We must know for certain how far the scope of these projects goes, and what, if any, tax benefits local municipalities stand to gain.
This is why I will continue to push for formal, in-depth hearings in the United States Congress. South Jersey is an amazing place, and I am going to keep doing everything I possibly can to keep it that way and to protect the shore we all know and love.
Rep. Jeff Van Drew, of Dennis Township, is a Republican representing New Jersey’s Second Congressional District. (Published in the Press of Atlantic City February 5, 2023)