June 21,2021 - A new bill was introduced by the New Jersey Legislature with alarming speed and without an adequate public process.
On June 10th, Senate bill S3926 that allows offshore wind projects to be granted eminent domain for transmission lines was introduced and was referred to the Environment and Energy Committee. Within five days, the bill was already on the agenda for that Committee’s meeting on June 15th and was passed by the Committee.
Similarly, the Assembly version of that bill (A5894) was introduced on June 14th and was referred to the Appropriations Committee. Just two days later, the bill was already on the agenda for the Appropriations Committee’s meeting on June 16th and was passed.
I support New Jersey’s initiatives for renewable energy and, as a general statement, I support offshore wind projects and understand that it is a key component to reaching the ambitious goal of 100% clean energy by 2050.
However, there was no time allowed for the public to be made aware of the bill, to fully digest and understand the impact of the bill, and to provide public input.
Equally as important is the fact that the bill is essentially about eminent domain for onshore connecting transmission lines. New Jersey’s energy master plan envisions a number of offshore wind projects. These are potentially competing projects with different vendors/sponsors. There are discussions on whether these offshore projects should be connected through a single open-access backbone transmission line onshore or on an individual project basis.
Eminent domain is the power to take properties from their owners for the benefit of the public interest. However, this is not the case for this bill. Instead, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (“BPU”) is specifically asked for a determination that a petition for eminent domain is necessary for the construction of an individual offshore wind project. This is very different than a determination that a project is reasonably necessary for the service, convenience, or welfare of the public.
An offshore wind project may have merits and be a qualified project. However, it may not be in the public interest to allow each qualified offshore wind project to have its own transmission line connecting onshore. We and the BPU must be allowed to look at this on a holistic basis. The current wording in the bill appears to preclude the BPU from making a determination that might be in the best public interest.
Ocean City Councilman Tom Rotondi has already spoken out against the bill, saying that “This bill takes away the ability of Shore communities to protect themselves.”
I urge residents to contact their New Jersey State Senate and Assembly representatives to vote NO to these two bills (S3295 and A5894).
Kin Gee, President CHARGE – Consumers Helping Affect Regulation of Gas & Electric