On the morning of July 10, Ørsted suddenly announced that it had notified DNREC that it would no longer pursue the development of its interconnection facility in Fenwick Island State Park stating: “[f]ollowing the completion of more thorough evaluations of the area proposed for the facility, Ørsted has determined that a large portion of the site is comprised of undisturbed wetlands.”
DNREC quickly followed a similar statement that: “There has been an understanding since the proposal was first made that significant negative impact to the environment, including wetlands at Fenwick Island State Park would not be acceptable to DNREC or to Ørsted.”
So Ørsted/DNREC are peddling the story that after nearly six months of secret negotiations to build Ørsted’s interconnection facility literally on top of Fenwick Island State Park’s wetlands and nine additional months of a slick joint PR campaign selling the development as “improvements” to the park, Ørsted and DNREC suddenly realized that Ørsted’s giant 2-acre substation would sit atop “undisturbed” wetlands.
If the secretly orchestrated project rollout and phony survey on park “improvements” wasn’t enough to cause you to question the motives behind the DNREC/Ørsted partnership, surely the sudden epiphany by these self-proclaimed environment stewards that building atop undisturbed wetlands actually destroys wetlands should be definitive proof. The only thing more fantastical than the abrupt realization that developing wetlands destroys wetlands is any expectation by DNREC/Ørsted that we believe the sincerity of their sudden concern.
Ørsted didn’t scuttle its industrial development at Fenwick Island State Park to save Delaware’s coastal wetlands and, although DNREC now conveniently claims to have taken wetland destruction into account all along, the record is quite void of such sentiment prior to Ørsted’s withdrawal.
Had it not been for the hard work, diligence and grassroots activism of stakeholders in Delaware’s coastal parks who exposed the lunacy (and hypocrisy) of the DNREC/Ørsted development plans, Ørsted would have dutifully reduced the park’s undisturbed ocean-to-bay wetlands by no less than 33 percent in pursuit of its interconnection facility and DNREC would have continued to eschew its public mandate to protect Delaware’s natural resources as money flowed over (and maybe under?) the table.
But beware, this isn’t over. Ocean City, Md., has held strong in denying interconnection unless Ørsted moves its turbines farther offshore and Assateague Island National Seashore is sensibly off limits. Ørsted, a public company with a duty to maximize shareholder value through cost avoidance, has all the reason in the world to remove Maryland from the interconnection equation. And with DNREC unmasked as a pliable, money-hungry mark, Ørsted will certainly have another go at Delaware.
The moral of this story is that, no matter how you feel about wind energy generally, stakeholders in Delaware’s coastal parks need to stay alert and speak up as DNREC has proven its willingness to put conservation aside when the price is right. If we fail to do so, the next development proposal from DNREC/Ørsted might as well include a natural history museum in lieu of a nature center.