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NJ rejects 3-year effort to install wind farm off Atlantic City coast

The three-year effort by a coalition to build the country’s first offshore wind farm in waters off Atlantic City appears dead in the water after the state Board of Public Utilities rejected the proposal today.

The unanimous decision by the BPU followed a recommendation by its staff, which said the $188 million proposed project was not financially viable because it left ratepayers on the hook for too much money if expected federal grants did not materialize.

The 25-megawatt project three miles off Atlantic City was relying on a mix of credit subsidies and federal grants to recoup the investment.

Speaking on behalf of the BPU staff, state Deputy Attorney General Marisa Slaten told the board the project “failed to meet the economic benefits and financial integrity consistent” with the state’s Energy Master Plan, which calls for the development of 1,100 megawatts of offshore power by 2020.

The decision follows a similar one in July, when the BPU rejected a negotiated settlement between Fishermen’s Energy and the state Division of Rate Counsel, the ratepayer watchdog. That brought negotiations back to the drawing board.

Environmental advocates who support the wind farm said they were disappointed by today’s decision and said it shows that Gov. Chris Christie has backpedaled on his commitment to offshore wind.

“Gov. Christie has gotten cold feet on offshore wind even though there is tremendous support from the manufacturing and offshore wind communities,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “The governor is traveling a lot out of state. Clearly, he’s not focusing on the needs of New Jersey, who elected him to lead the state, not to play to the Republican Party’s conservative base.”

A message to the governor’s office was not immediately returned.

Fishermen’s Energy chief operating officer Paul Gallagher said the coalition is considering appealing the decision. “The fact is we still have a fully permitted project waiting to be built off Atlantic City,” he said after the vote. The project, which is heavily financed by a group of Chinese investors, “could commence construction tomorrow if we won the lottery.”