In recent years, New Jersey has seen the emergence of two completely new industries – marijuana and deep-sea wind energy production.
The marijuana industry has received more attention, in part because use of marijuana had been illegal in the state until the passage of new laws. Medical marijuana was enacted in 2010. It took until February 22 of this year- more than a decade later- before recreational marijuana use became legal. During that period, scores of pro- marijuana businesses and groups spent more nearly $6.7 million on lobbying.
Less noticed was the fact that during the same period, about a dozen firms and associations that support offshore windmills spent nearly $4.2 million on lobbying.
It is not unusual for representatives of new industries to recruit lobbyists to help lay the groundwork for their entry into the state’s marketplace.
Businesses may need access to key legislative and executive branch contacts, legislation, regulations, permits, financial incentives or other government support for their budding enterprises.
Of course, there also could be some lobbying against the new industries.
While the erection of large windmills off the New Jersey coast doesn’t stir as much controversy as marijuana use, some fear the several-hundred-foot-tall wind towers could harm marine life or birds, or be an aesthetic turn-off for tourists. Supporters defend them as a new source of clean energy, a tool for fighting global warming and a pool of new jobs.
State officials already have announced that Lower Alloways Creek Township in Salem County will be the nation’s first windmill fabrication and staging site with support from the Paulsboro Marine Terminal.
Governor Phil Murphy has issued three executive orders intended to speed the construction of ocean-based windmills. The most recent one issued on November 19, 2019 set a goal of constructing enough wind turbines to supply 7,500 megawatts of electricity by 2035. That is enough electricity to power to more than 3.2 million New Jersey homes.
Total global production in early 2020 was about 6,100 megawatts generated by 5,500 windmills mostly located off China, Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Belgium, according to “Offshore Wind for America.” The first offshore windfarm was sited off Denmark in 1991. The report was published in March 2021 by Environment America Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group.
The report said the seabeds off New Jersey and other northeast states are well-suited for ocean-sited windmills. “The Atlantic region, especially the Northeast, has strong, consistent wind and a wide, shallow continental shelf, making deployment of offshore wind relatively straightforward using existing technology.”
Ørsted North America Inc., a Danish firm that operates the sole offshore wind farm in the nation off Rhode Island, has been chosen in New Jersey to develop its first 1,100-megawatt wind farm about 15 miles off Atlantic City. It hopes to be operational by 2024.
Ørsted has spent the most on lobbying over the decade- just over $1 million.
Other spenders on the list either have proposed or are planning to propose their own sea-based wind farms, or are involved in support industries such as manufacturing and transmission.
Joseph Donohue is the deputy executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.