New Jersey legislators’ narrow vote to approve giving more federal renewable energy tax credits to wind power developer Ørsted has brought a new lawsuit by opponents who say the move violates the state constitution.

Two community activist groups – Protect Our Coast NJ and Defend Brigantine Beachfiled the lawsuit July 27 in state Superior Court. 

In a statement the groups say the state Legislature’s June 30 vote along mostly partisan lines – with Democratic lawmakers supporting the tax credit measure – approved “unconstitutional special legislation intended solely to benefit Ørsted from business and financial risks it voluntarily assumed in an approved agreement with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

“Specifically, the law was passed for the singular purpose of benefiting the Danish wind developer in the construction of the Ocean Wind 1 project and has exposed ratepayers to additional financial burden.”

The activist groups are represented by Bruce Afran, a Princeton, N.J., lawyer who works on issues of civil rights, constitutional law and the environment. The new lawsuit follows another court action opponents filed in June. Back then, Keith Moore of the group Defend Brigantine Beach, said it was just the beginning of a series of planned legal challenges his group expects to file.

“This is the first of a series of lawsuits that will challenge the federal and state government’s targeting of New Jersey’s coast with a vast industrial project that will permanently damage the ocean environment and our shore communities,” said Moore.

The lawsuit names as defendants the state of New Jersey, Ocean Wind LLC, and Orsted North America. Twin measures passed by the state Assembly and Senate, and signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, are “in violation of the New Jersey Constitution as it authorizes subsidies to a single offshore wind developer, Ocean Wind LLC and Ørsted North America, Inc.,” the objectors say.

The wind developers “lobbied the State of NJ for additional project funding citing inflationary and supply chain issues,” according to the groups. “In response, (the legislation) shifted federal credits earmarked for New Jersey customers to the offshore wind developer. On June 26, 2023, the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel stated to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee that no factual basis has been offered to establish that any actual financial need exists to allow Orsted to retain additional tax credits.”

Soon after the June 30 Statehouse vote, Joris Veldhoven, CEO of Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind – which holds a lease near the Ocean Wind 1 project area –  called for New Jersey legislators to extend the tax credits to his company's neighboring project.

"Today’s bill passage reaffirms the State’s commitment to offshore wind. Yet, to establish a durable, thriving, full-scale offshore wind industry in New Jersey, we need an industry-wide solution, one that stabilizes all current projects including Atlantic Shore Project 1, the largest offshore wind project in the State of New Jersey and third largest project awarded in the United States."

Veldhoven indicated his venture is under the same kind of pressures that led to the Ocean Wind 1 deal.

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Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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