Offshore Wind; Port Authority on the move; New Jersey Budget; 9/11 Victims Fund

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Offshore Wind Developments

New Jersey made history recently when the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) awarded the largest single offshore wind project ever in the United States. Danish energy giant Ørsted was selected to generate 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind from turbines located 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City.

“After so many years, New Jersey is going to finally be open for business as far as offshore wind is concerned,” said BPU President Joe Fiordaliso, who was recently re-nominated by Murphy and confirmed by the Senate for another term and becomes the longest-serving BPU Commissioner in the agency’s history.

The $1.6 billion project award is historic for New Jersey, a major accomplishment for the Murphy Administration, and a significant step toward Murphy’s commitment to install 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030.

The award is the culmination of a process that began last September when BPU began accepting applications for 1,100 megawatts of wind. Ørsted said its wind project will have “minimal visual impacts,” with construction expected to begin in early 2020. It is estimated the project will create more than 15,000 direct jobs over its roughly 25-year life and generate $1.17 billion in economic benefits.

Murphy’s point person on offshore wind and New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan, Fiordaliso was recently named #20 on InsiderNJ’s Top 100 Policymakers for delivering win after energy win for Murphy. BPU Chief of Staff Grace Power came in at #85 on the same list.  Congrats to both and kudos to BPU for being such an energy change agent for New Jersey.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo followed New Jersey’s historic news with an announcement that his State had selected two offshore wind firms to build 1,700 megawatts of wind. The two projects would move New York toward its stated goal of building 9,000 megawatts of wind power by 2035. Ørsted and Northeast utility owner Eversource will build an 880-megawatt wind project to supply Long Island; Equinor, a Norwegian energy company, will build an 816 megawatt project to power New York City.

New Jersey Enacts FY2020 Budget

With a government shutdown looming, Governor Murphy signed New Jersey’s FY2020 budget on Sunday, June 30. The $37.8 billion budget did not include the expanded millionaires’ tax that Murphy had demanded and which had become a source of intense political disagreement between the Governor and legislative leadership. Murphy used his veto authority to cut over $48 million in spending and froze another $235 million.

The final budget includes an $875 million undesignated surplus and a $400 million deposit into the State’s rainy day fund. The final budget also includes an additional $75 million for NJ TRANSIT; this critically needed investment was added by the Legislature and represents a substantial increase over the $25 million increase included in Murphy’s original budget and will result in an operating budget increase of 3.2% over last year.

Check out the Governor’s press release and related budget documents here.

Port Authority Makes Moves

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is in the midst of a construction boom, aggressively and assertively repairing and rebuilding many of our region’s most critical assets, including bridges, airports and transit. It appears that this full throttled boom will continue.

The Port Authority recently unveiling an updated and expanded capital program that will grow from $32 to $37 billion. The increase will be funded through an increase in fees, tolls and fares. The updated capital program will fund critical regional priorities including the Newark Airport AirTrain which is well beyond its useful life and in need of replacement.

Of paramount importance to the success of the updated capital program will be making sure the Port Authority’s investments are evenly allocated to New Jersey and New York. Easier said than done since day-to-day management is largely in the hands of Cuomo loyalists.

Port Master Plan

The Port Authority recently finalized and released its Port Master Plan 2050, which aims to plan and account for the future growth and development at the region’s port facilities. According to Port Authority documents, the “30-year plan takes a holistic look at the Port, including cargo container facilities, automobile terminals, dry and liquid bulk cargo operations, cruise terminals and ferry landings, mapping out the next generation of land-use and infrastructure development projects, allowing the port to remain among the nation’s leading maritime gateways.”

The plan could not come at a more critical time for our region; due to record growth in cargo volume, the Port of New Jersey recently became the 2nd busiest port facility in the country, surpassing the Port of Long Beach.

The Port Authority will now turn to implementing the plan’s key findings and recommendations. You can check out the full plan and supporting documents here

Operator selected for EWR Terminal One

The Port Authority has selected Munich Airport International (MAI) to operate Newark Airport’s new $2.7 billion Terminal One which is currently under construction. The new terminal will replace the existing Terminal A which is – to put it diplomatically – outdated.

The selection of MAI – which will handle operations, maintenance and concessions at Terminal One – should be a huge value-add for Newark Airport. Commenting on MAI’s selection, Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole said, “We wanted to bring a world leaders in customer service and concession management to Newark Liberty, and MAI fits the bill.”

9/11 Victim Compensation Fund

Yesterday the United States Senate passed a bill essentially making permanent the fund that supports 9/11 victims stricken by toxic smoke and dust from the remains of the World Trade Center. We never suspected that the issue of caring for those who risked their health and safety in the aftermath of the deadliest attack on the United States and the single deadliest terrorist attack in human history would be a controversial one for the United States Congress.

And yet it took years of intense lobbying and hundreds of trips to Capitol Hill by sick and dying first responders to plead their case. We’re not going to dignify the last-minute attempt by two US Senators to derail the bill by mentioning them by name. Instead we’ll applaud the 74 co-sponsors and 97 Senators who voted to pass this long overdue measure. #NeverForget