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Court Orders Ocean City to Issue Ocean Wind Permits

An aerial snapshot of the five turbines that make up Ørsted's Block Island wind farm in Rhode Island. Ørsted is the Danish company behind the Ocean Wind 1 project. 
Provided by Ørsted/File Photo

An aerial snapshot of the five turbines that make up Ørsted’s Block Island wind farm in Rhode Island. Ørsted is the Danish company behind the Ocean Wind 1 project. 

By Vince Conti

OCEAN CITY – Superior Court Judge Michael Blee ruled against Ocean City, June 21, and ordered the municipality to issue a necessary road opening permit to Ocean Wind LLC. 
The permit will allow the offshore wind company to proceed with environmental and utility investigations related to its route for transmission cables that will take wind farm generated energy across Ocean City on its way to a new electric substation at Beesley’s Point in Upper Township.
In deference to the summer tourist season, the order states that work will not be allowed until on or after Sept. 11, 2023.
Ocean Wind LLC brought the suit against the city and Municipal Engineer George Savastano in May after the city refused to issue work permits related to the transmission route. 
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) had approved the cable route across city and county land, overruling the municipal and county governing bodies who had each rejected the route.
Both the county and the city have appealed the NJBPU decision to the Superior Court Appellate Division, challenging the 2021 state statute that gave the NJBPU the power to overrule local governing bodies on issues related to offshore wind development. 
Ocean City had argued that any decision on work permits should follow from a ruling on the appeals. Ocean Wind claimed that the city’s “failure to issue the Permit has already delayed the start of the project construction which is planned to begin as early as the third quarter of 2023.”
Prior to the Ocean Wind LLC suit, the city sought a stay of the NJBPU order until there was a decision in the appeal. NJBPU denied the stay request.
The legal battles over the wind farm construction multiplied again this week when three nonprofit citizen groups announced, June 16, they were filing suit in the Appellate Division challenging the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) ruling that wind farm construction is “consistent with the state’s coastal management regulations.” 
The three groups bringing the latest legal action are Save LBI, Defend Brigantine and Protect Our Coast NJ.
As the legal challenges mount, the attorney for the three citizen advocacy groups, Bruce Afran, made clear what the state’s offshore wind initiative can expect at every turn. 
Afran warned that the offshore wind industry “will face fierce and growing legal battles if it continues this destructive mission.”
The courts have become a major battlefield in the intensifying local struggle to oppose the state’s offshore wind initiative. 
Contact the author, Vince Conti, at vconti@cmcherald.com.

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