Shortly after taking office in 2010, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vowed to turn the state into "a national leader in the wind-power movement."
He signed into law legislation authorizing New Jersey to provide $100 million in tax credits for qualified wind energy in addition to energy projects to established state and federal subsidies.
Five years later, the program is moribund and there are no clear plans for getting construction under way on the state's first wind farm.
The firm created to install the first wind farm in the Atlantic City area "has been repeatedly blocked by a Christie-appointed regulatory panel, and the governor has all but ceased talking about the subject," The Washington Post reported.
The failure to get the project off the ground has sparked a wave of political recriminations in the Garden State. Democrats and environmentalists blame Christie and say his enthusiasm for wind energy appeared to wane after a series of meetings in 2011 and 2012 with Republican donors, including libertarian-leaning billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
In recent years, Christie has spent more time supporting the Keystone XL pipeline (which has drawn considerable bipartisan support nationwide) than in lobbying for wind turbines, according to the Post.
"The Kochs don't like clean energy," declared Stephen Sweeney, president of New Jersey's Democrat-controlled state Senate. "The governor wants to be a Republican presidential candidate, and this kind of energy doesn't get you any kind of stars."
Fishermen's Energy, the firm seeking to install turbines off the Atlantic City coast, has been twice blocked by a skeptical state utilities board, which has questioned the company’s finances while arguing that the project would be costly to New Jersey rate payers, the Post reported.
Christie administration officials, while declining to comment on the Fishermen's project, emphasized that it was the regulator, not the governor, that halted it. A Christie spokesman said his boss "has pursued exactly the type of policy he said he would when running for governor: balancing the needs of giving businesses relief from onerous regulations with a commitment to protect the environment."
Paul J. Gallagher Sr., Fishermen’s chief executive,
says the company plans to press ahead with the project.
The company won a $47 million federal grant to pursue plans to build the wind farm off Atlantic City.
Supporting the company’s work is the Obama administration, which has aggressively pushed wind and solar energy as part of its larger effort to reduce carbon emissions, with both the Energy and Interior departments spearheading the administration's campaign.
Buried more than 30 paragraphs into the Washington Post story is a fleeting reference to criticism of the economic viability of the project by the Institute for Energy Research (IER).
The think tank (which the Post describes as "funded in part by oil interests") issued a detailed, blistering report in November 2013 stating that the project was being financed by a Chinese wind turbine manufacturer. The firm had agreed to build an assembly plant in New Jersey in which production was "wholly dependent on the Chinese developer being awarded state and federal subsidies."
What is clear "is that this proposal sounds 100 percent unworthy of American consideration and is instead wholly compatible with the business ideals of communist China," the IER said. "Robbing New Jersey rate-payers to fund those wind farms will undoubtedly raise energy prices in New Jersey and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions for the next 20 years."
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