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6 Protesters Arrested as Ørsted Begins Work in Ocean City

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. 
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 – The Danish wind farm developer Ørsted had workmen on-site in Ocean City, Sept. 12, to begin tests along the planned route of transmission lines from Ocean Wind I to an electric grid connection at Beesley’s Point in Upper Township. Protesters who want the wind farm stopped had other ideas. Six were arrested.

Even though Ørsted has not made a final decision to proceed with the development of the offshore wind project, the company had work crews on 35th Street in Ocean City one day after the earliest date set by a court for the start of physical testing of the cable route.

What organizers said was intended as a protest by about 60 individuals that would only delay the work for a short time became more than that when six of the protesters refused to leave with the others. The six were eventually arrested and charged with disorderly persons offenses.

Of the six individuals, only one gave a permanent address in Cape May County – Shani Kovacevic, 44, of Ocean View. Three were from Pennsylvania: Denise Phillip, 53, of Doylestown, Donna Dataneang-Weinstein, 58, of Rydal, and Robert Weinstein, 73, of Rydal. The two others were New Jersey residents: Karen Corsi, 66, of Woodbury, and Lee Darby-Rinaldi, 59, of Absecon. Many of the protesters said they had some connection to Ocean City, either through small businesses or second homes.

Ocean City has been ground zero in the fight against the offshore wind initiative in Cape May County. Mayor Jay Gillian has called for the project to be halted due to what he said was a large number of “unknowns,” referring to potential environmental and economic impacts from wind farms just off the coast. Gillian has in the past characterized the offshore wind initiative as a “money grab” by Ørsted and other developers.

Opponents of the wind farms believe that they will do irreparable harm to the environment and damage the county’s tourism-based economy. Ocean City has seen beach protests, hosted county sessions on the dangers of wind farm development and engaged in litigation against Ørsted. For many, the passions evoked by the possibility of wind farms off the coast run high.

The protests did not prevent the work from continuing. An Ørsted spokesperson described the work as digging holes along parts of the planned cable route, sampling groundwater and soil, and confirming the location of existing underground infrastructure.

The onshore work began even though Ørsted has publicly said it has not yet made a final decision on its commitment to the wind farm project. Citing high inflation and supply-chain problems, the company has called for greater financial support from public sources.

The company maintains that the circumstances under which the wind farm would be constructed have changed significantly since it bid for the project in 2019. New Jersey has responded to Ørsted by allowing the company to keep about $1 billion in tax credits that the company had promised to give back to state ratepayers.

Social media comments on the protests and arrests were a mixed bag, with more support for the protests. One person argued that by disrupting work the protesters deserved arrest, while another said that Gillian should have ordered the police to allow the work stoppage and force Gov. Phil Murphy to send in the State Police.

Some of the protesters have said they will be back to peacefully protest the work until it is completed.

Contact the author, Vince Conti, at vconti@cmcherald.com.

Reporter

Vince Conti is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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