Gov. Christie urged to act on off-shore wind energy inititatives

Source: By Rebecca Forand/Gloucester County Times • Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Paulsboro port offshore wind THH_0050.jpgSenate President Steve Sweeney, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club Jeff Tittle, Assemblyman John Burzichelli and Celeste Riley, stand in front of the empty Paulsboro Marine Terminal, to urging Gov. Chris Christie to act on creating wind energy jobs in New Jersey Monday afternoon. August 27. 2012. (Staff Photo by Tim Hawk/Gloucester County Times)

PAULSBORO — Standing in front of the large, empty expanse that is the Paulsboro Marine Terminal, local legislators joined the Sierra Club in urging Gov. Chris Christie to act on creating wind energy jobs in New Jersey Monday afternoon.

Two years ago, Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (OWEDA), a bill that would set up parameters for New Jersey to be the leader in harnessing wind energy — and the jobs created by it — throughout the East Coast.

The Board of Public Utilities (BPU) was to develop regulations regarding the offshore renewable energy credit program, but these regulations have yet to be released — keeping the offshore wind industry from coming to New Jersey.

“We have the Saudi Arabia of wind energy off our coast. We’re not going to have a New Jersey comeback without sustainable energy,” Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said, referencing the governor’s “New Jersey Comeback” campaign. “ Two years ago Gov. Christie came here to sign an Offshore Wind Act and two years later that bill and law hasn’t been implemented.”

The location of Monday’s demonstration was significant as it was the location of the bill’s signing in 2010 and the chosen location to create a wind energy hub in New Jersey.

If implemented, the law is expecting to bring between 2,000 and 5,000 jobs to the area, including manufacturing jobs to build and install the necessary infrastructure and windmills necessary to harness wind energy from Maine to Virginia.

With a base in Paulsboro, New Jersey would be set to capture the wind energy market throughout the east coast.

“We know this is coming and who ever is first gets the real economic benefit from manufacturing,” said State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3, of West Deptford. “We have to be diverse on our energy profile. The governor is again dragging his feet. Here’s an industry the entire East Coast is chasing and we’re in front. But we’re not going to be in front.”

He referenced New Jersey’s positive track record on sustainable energy, especially solar power, as a blue print to follow while implementing the procedures for wind energy.

“New Jersey found a way to make us one of the solar hot spots in the country,” Sweeney said. “When you block things like this, you block a real comeback.”

Sweeney and Tittel blamed Gov. Christie’s recent entry into the national politics spotlight as one reason sustainable energy, especially wind energy, has been moved to the back burner of his agenda.

“The Governor and his administration are not doing its job,” Tittel said. “We should be the first. We have a facility ready to go.”

Assembly members John Burzichelli, D-3, of Paulsboro, and Celeste Riley, D-3, of Bridgeton joined the call for action, echoing the sentiments of their colleague in the senate.

“Our BPU has become a hurdle to this coming to life,” Burzichelli said. “We need to get it done. Two years is a long time.”

Windmills off the coast of New Jersey, while initially an expense to build, are expected to harness enough energy from wind to offset the cost of electricity for many of New Jersey’s residents.

With Christie in Florida speaking at the Republican National Convention, the gathered legislators and advocates called for him to act on making wind energy a priority immediately upon his return.

“When the Governor gets back from his big speech, maybe we can harvest some of that wind and get this going in New Jersey,” Tittel said.