NEWARK, N.J. -- One New Jersey lawmaker wants to add a new attraction to amusement parks along the Jersey shore: windmills.
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew is pushing to change state regulations to allow the construction of power-generating windmills on amusement piers.
The Cape May Democrat has introduced legislation that would change coastal regulations that now prohibit energy facilities within 500 feet of the high tide line.
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Van Drew says the restrictions are outdated, and that easing rules on environmentally friendly sources of power makes economic sense.
"Every time we put a windmill in, or a solar panel field, we're relying on Mideast oil that much less," he said.
The idea has support from some environmental groups and the president of Steel Pier in Atlantic City, who is lobbying to build five windmills to power all the pier's attractions. State environmental officials couldn't be reached Friday as government offices were closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.
David Pringle of the New Jersey Environmental Federation says despite concerns over the impact of windmills on migratory birds, the structures are less invasive than large housing developments, casinos or other structures built on piers. Pringle says current restrictions on clean energy are too stringent.
"They (state government) hold clean renewables like wind energy to a higher standard than the Borgata (casino) or a large housing development," he said. "That doesn't pass the straight-face test."
The proposal comes as New Jersey, which already uses windmill power in parts of Atlantic City and elsewhere, is attempting to become a leader in wind power.
There's a plan to build a $1 billion wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean about 16 miles southeast of Atlantic City. And the federal government gave four companies permission to start exploring whether wind off the coast of New Jersey and Delaware can be harnessed to make electricity.
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