PAULSBORO – Third District lawmakers gathered at a shuttered oil storage tank site here today and called on Gov. Chris Christie to take action to develop offshore wind energy, restore a Brownfields site to a useful life, and create thousands of jobs in a state where the jobless rate has hit 9.8 percent.
Democrats Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Deputy Speaker John J. Burzichelli and Assemblywoman Celeste Riley assembled at the location where two years ago the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act was signed to berate Christie for not moving faster on wind energy.
Since that day in 2010, little progress has been made, they said, and they placed much of the blame at the feet of a governor they say is more interested these days in appealing to the fossil fuel-oriented wing of the Republican Party.
The issue has taken on increased political significance because Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has talked openly of increasing offshore oil drilling, including in the Atlantic, something many New Jersey lawmakers oppose. Romney’s energy policy does not afford a huge role for renewables, but he says his plan will create 3 million jobs and make the country energy independent by 2020.
But today, the Third District lawmakers as well as Jeff Tittel of the N.J. Sierra Club said that when the law was signed in 2010, it was envisioned that this former BP and Dow property on the Delaware River would be transformed into a site to manufacture the wind turbines as well as become a port to ship the parts to their final destination.
In the process, they said, more than 2,000 manufacturing jobs would be created on about 400 acres where today nothing else is going on, and New Jersey would be in on the ground floor of an industry that would benefit not only this state but others from Maine to Virginia that would need turbines as well.
“We knew this industry was coming,’’ said Sweeney, adding that “New Jersey is dead in the middle of where we want to be.”
But he said that although everyone knows the importance of being first in establishing a manufacturing site, the governor and the Board of Public Utilities have dragged their feet.
Burzichelli called BPU a hurdle to the permitting of wind energy companies. “Investors’ money will go somewhere else,’’ he warned.
And Riley lamented that New Jersey still is getting most of its energy from out-of-state.
Sweeney and Tittel pointed out that fossil fuel plants, and the Oyster Creek nuclear plant, will be winding down and ceasing operations in years to come.
“Offshore wind is the most reliable and cost-effective form of renewable energy,’’ Tittel said. “The biggest cost is building the windmills,’’ he said, and after that, clean, renewable energy is there to be used.
They said that BPU was to have promulgated rules in March 2011, but they said that ever since Christie became more in lockstep with the more conservative elements of his party, his interest in wind power seems to have waned.
Sweeney called on the governor to take steps once he returns from the national convention in Tampa to demonstrate his commitment to wind energy.
In April 2011, for example, Fishermen’s Energy received the go-ahead from state regulators to move forward with its plan for constructing a six-turbine, 25-megawatt wind-energy system 2.8 miles from Atlantic City’s boardwalk, capable of powering 10,000 homes, but Sweeney said that if the marine terminal is remade into a manufacturing site they can pull in business involving much larger operations, 4,000-megawatt projects.
In the governor’s Energy Master Plan, the administration talks of not rushing headlong into long-term contracts with developers until the state determines there are net economic benefits.