Growing impatient with the pace of implementation for its Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, some in New Jersey are beginning to theorize that the bill’s lack of movement is attributable to the higher political ambitions of Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J.
Signed by Christie in 2010, the act directs the state’s Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to develop an offshore renewable energy credit (OREC) program to support at least 1,100 MW of offshore wind and establishes a carve-out for offshore wind within the state’s renewable portfolio standard. The legislation obligates New Jersey electricity suppliers to procure ORECs based on their share of statewide load. The act also includes up to $100 million in tax credits to encourage the offshore wind industry to bring manufacturing and assembly facilities to New Jersey. (For more on ORECs and offshore wind, see our cover story, “Two Paths Taken For Procuring Offshore Revenue.”)
Despite a March 2011 deadline, the BPU has yet to propose regulations. And some of Christie’s political rivals have publicly theorized why.
“I honestly believe that it’s being held up by national politics,” State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, told local media outlets.
The thinking goes something like this: While in New Jersey, Christie publicly supports offshore wind. However, when courting support for a possible presidential bid, he will not go out of his way to tout the state’s sustainability efforts for fear of alienating party members fundamentally opposed to federal subsidies, renewable energy and otherwise. Got that? Neither did I.
Let me get this straight: The act that Christie supported – and eventually signed – is now being intentionally delayed due to political motivations? Don’t get me wrong – when it comes to conspiracy theories, I enjoy them as much as the next guy. However, I’m not buying the notion. Wouldn’t such a tactic fly in the face of Christie’s calls-em-as-he-sees-em persona?
Sure, painting Christie as a modern-day Machiavelli makes for compelling headlines. However, there’s good reason for the state’s delay. New Jersey stakeholders – including the BPU – are working on measures to close a loophole that would divert ratepayer funds – designed to bankroll the first offshore wind projects – to help balance future budget shortfalls. Credit the state for its cautious approach. Considering that other states, such as Virginia, could look to implement New Jersey’s offshore wind model, it is paramount that the state gets it right. w