Building large-scale infrastructure in the public trust is a profound responsibility. It requires technical skill, capital and, critically, a roll-up-your-sleeves approach to engaging with stakeholders – listening, asking questions and adapting to differing perspectives. That’s why I was pleased to learn Rep. Jeff Van Drew was bringing together the South Jersey community, including representatives of the fishing community and other local businesses, to talk about the development of the new American offshore wind industry, and how it may affect New Jersey.
This is important because offshore wind is poised to be a huge new industry on the East Coast, with projects underway by many developers spanning from Massachusetts to North Carolina. As the world’s largest operator of offshore wind projects, and proud developer of New Jersey’s first offshore wind farm, we believe this new American industry will not only provide cost-effective clean energy and good-paying jobs, but also can do so in harmony with the environment and existing users of the ocean, including commercial and recreational fishermen.
Federal and state law mandate a long list of checks and balances that must be satisfied before we can begin construction. In addition to those requirements, our company holds that it is important to engage, communicate with and listen to key stakeholders, like members of the fishing community, because their input will help us to build a better project and to help establish a better, more sustainable local industry.
Congressman Van Drew’s meeting was an excellent forum for doing just that. The questions asked of panelists were thoughtful and their answers were respectful of others’ opinions. In all, it was an example of how government can and should work, a meeting that placed all interested parties in one room at one time to do one thing – listen.
In addition, Van Drew called for the offshore wind industry to proactively engage with the fishing community – listening and responding to their questions and concerns. We appreciate the congressman’s level of commitment to creating collaboration among industries and fully support his call for greater engagement.
Our local Ocean Wind team, and our entire company, is committed to greater engagement. In New Jersey, we are at the very beginning of a multi-year permitting process that will create many opportunities for anyone to provide their input to help us build a better project. And more broadly, our company is preparing our local staff to engage in a deeper level of meaningful dialogue and engagement with the fishing community.
On a personal note, I commend Rep. Van Drew for bringing all parties together. The Atlantic Ocean is important to all of us in a variety of ways. It is our goal and intention to respect the ocean, its inhabitants and the members of the fishing community, who for countless years have counted on the ocean to support their families, businesses and the economy.
We are committed to building a project that we can all be proud of.
Frederick Zalcman is head of government affairs for North America for Ørsted.