Gov. Phil Murphy is asking the federal government to extend the public comment period on proposed new lease sales for offshore wind in the New York Bight, a step that could delay the process for up to six months.
In a letter to Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior, the governor requested more time (180 days) because the areas in New York under consideration for wind-energy development include New Jersey’s main fishing grounds, including two that are closest to its coast.
The request, if granted, could slow recent steps taken by both states to expedite building offshore wind farms in waters near New York and New Jersey. All along the Eastern Seaboard, states are bidding to lure developers to build large wind farms off their coasts, a process that is becoming increasingly competitive.
New Jersey needs more time to adequately respond to the proposed lease sale, and more than a dozen issues raised by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in seeking comment from stakeholders, Murphy noted in his letter. New Jersey stakeholders have not yet been meaningfully involved in the process, including the state’s large and valuable commercial fishing industry.
“While New Jersey believes that wind energy and the fishing industry can coexist productively, it is critical that potential conflicts from these multiple uses be identified and planned for early in the process,’’ Murphy’s letter said.
In the letter, the governor cited his strong support for offshore wind, including setting a goal of 3,500 megawatts of capacity for the state by 2030. “We look forward to working cooperatively with BOEM and our New York neighbors to achieve this ambitious goal,’’ Murphy said.
New Jersey passed a law nearly eight years ago to aggressively promote offshore wind, but after signing it, former Gov. Chris Christie’s support waned due to potential costs to ratepayers. As a result, other states, like Rhode Island — which boasts the nation’s first offshore wind farm — and Maryland moved ahead of New Jersey.
At a hearing in Trenton on Tuesday, offshore wind developers praised the state’s initial rough framework for financing projects, but also urged New Jersey to move quickly to begin soliciting bids for offshore wind farms, preferably by the end of this year. The timing is crucial to enable developers to obtain lucrative federal tax incentives for their projects.
The New York Bight lease sale is significant for a number of reasons, Murphy argued in the letter. It is the first in proximity to two operators of regional grids; near one of the highest-congestion areas in the country; close to the largest port on the East Coast; and would include one of the more ecologically rich and important marine resources on Earth.
But raising those issues and the concerns about commercial fisheries worried some offshore wind advocates. Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said the letter could complicate New Jersey’s own efforts to develop offshore wind. “It could derail not only New York’s projects, but also those in New Jersey,’’ he said.