New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on May 2 returned Senate Bill No. 988, which would encourage offshore wind projects, to the Senate without his approval.
Said the governor’s veto message to the Senate: “This bill would require the Board of Public Utilities (“BPU”) to open a new 30-day period for the submission of applications under the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (“OWEDA”), specifically with regard to projects that would be sited in territorial waters near Atlantic City. BPU would be required to open the new application period within 60 days of enactment of the legislation. The bill would also require BPU, after the opening of the initial 30-day application window, to open additional application windows from time to time in the future.
“OWEDA provided the BPU with considerable authority to evaluate offshore wind projects proposed for New Jersey waters prior to their construction. That the Legislature gave BPU this authority is not surprising, given BPU’s expertise in energy matters.
“Among other things, OWEDA requires that a project sponsor prepare a cost-benefit analysis for consideration by BPU, which BPU will evaluate in determining whether the proposed offshore wind project provides a net benefit to the State and its ratepayers. If BPU determines that the proposed project does not pass the net benefits test, BPU may reject the proposal. This aspect of BPU’s authority is important for a number of reasons, among them being the protection of ratepayers, since the cost of these projects inevitably will be passed along to them in their electricity bills.
“Given that OWEDA makes BPU responsible for determining whether proposed offshore wind projects should proceed, the law logically also affords BPU discretion over when it will allow applicants to submit proposals for new offshore wind projects.
“The pending version of this bill is admittedly more restrained than the version that was originally introduced last session, which would have dispensed entirely with the net benefits test for projects sited near Atlantic City. However, even in its current form, the bill still seeks to usurp BPU’s authority by compelling BPU to immediately receive applications. This is a notable departure from OWEDA, which appropriately defers to BPU to determine when it will accept applications. Accordingly, I cannot endorse a bill that would run contrary to OWEDA’s original intent by taking discretion away from BPU, the entity responsible for managing energy matters on behalf of the State.”
Christie on Jan. 19 had signed a number of bills and vetoed several bills out of the 216th Legislative Session, including a veto of a bill that would have revived a controversial offshore wind project. The veto was of S-2711/A-4128, which would have permitted the New Jersey BPU to open a new window for applications for small offshore wind projects off the coast of Atlantic City. The bill would have allowed Fishermen’s Energy to go forward with its 25-MW offshore wind project, which was earlier rejected by the BPU.