Letter: Reader wants officials held accountable

Editor:

The ardent on both sides of the windfarm debate routinely cite asymmetrical precedent to advance half-truths as absolute. The assertions of Joy Weber, Ørsted’s development manager of the Skipjack wind project, are no different.

Three truths exist, however, with respect to Ørsted’s proposal to house its industrial transmission facility in Fenwick Island State Park: (1) Ørsted’s Skipjack project is not dependent on the park (and vice versa); (2) Ørsted has no duty to Delaware and (3) DNREC has negligently abandoned its oversight duties.

Truth #1

Ms. Weber purposely paints a fiction that Delawareans cannot support wind energy without also succumbing to Ørsted’s industrial development at the park. With over $4.6 billion of cash and equivalents on its balance sheet, Ørsted can easily afford a suitable location, the park is merely a cheap option with an accommodating counterparty.

Similarly, DNREC doesn’t need Ørsted to meet its modest $2 million of initially earmarked capital improvements at the park, i.e., no wetland destruction or electro-magnetic field exposure is actually required for park upkeep.

I am not a member of the oil and gas lobby. I appreciate the need for renewable energy to curb global warming and sea-level rise. In a fit of nuance that may shock Ms. Weber, I also oppose Ørsted’s proposed development of undisturbed wetlands at Fenwick Island State Park because the park is a key component of Delaware’s wetlands’ ecosystem and a critically important habitat for wildlife.

In the pursuant of wind energy, why needlessly destroy protected coastal wetlands — the very ecosystem renewable energy is intended to protect?

Delawareans shouldn’t allow themselves to be bullied by Ms. Weber or DNREC into believing renewable energy and wetlands preservation are mutually exclusive, we can have both.

There are many developed areas on the Delmarva coastline appropriate to house Ørsted’s industrial equipment, but Fenwick Island State Park isn’t one of them. Ørsted’s transmission bunker simply belongs elsewhere.

Truth #2

Like its fossil fuel competitors, Ørsted is a public company with a corporate goal of profitably developing projects to return value to its shareholders. Ørsted has no obligation to Delaware whatsoever.

So when Ms. Weber amusingly claims through its part in the Skipjack project “…Delaware will become an unquestioned leader in America’s transition to renewable energy,” her corporate bias shines. If Delaware is to become an unquestioned renewable energy leader by ruining its wetlands in pursuit of Maryland’s renewable energy goals, might New Jersey also claim itself the unquestioned leader in maintaining a garbage dump-free Manhattan by contracting to house New York City’s trash?

Delawareans should simply view Ms. Weber’s letter for what it is — part of a well-funded, outcome-oriented corporate P.R. strategy. The same holds true for Ørsted’s shadow P.R. campaigns, e.g., Delaware Surf Fishing.

Truth #3

Delaware’s elected officials are employed by taxpayers to protect Delaware’s residents and wetland ecosystem, so when it comes to the Fenwick Island State Park proposal, the real dereliction in duty lies with DNREC.

Last summer when DNREC Secretary Garvin secretly agreed to a joint communication strategy with Ørsted and a nondisclosure agreement regarding project information absent the company’s prior consent (unless legally compelled), he effectively ceded control of information flow and the public engagement process to Ørsted under the cover of DNREC’s logo.

Just ask Secretary Garvin who prepared the project renderings and information boards for the proposed Ørsted-related “improvements” at the park (spoiler alert, not DNREC). A confidential project roll-out strategy and public comment “survey” without an option to dissent are similar quintessential markers of well-heeled pay-to-play politics.

While coined a public-private “partnership,” the DNREC-Ørsted arrangement is more akin to a Pinocchio-Geppetto ventriloquist agreement where Ørsted pulls a string and DNREC dances and nods.

With DNREC derelict in its duties, the stakeholders in Delaware’s future must take immediate action in her defense. As for the elected officials who have allied themselves with Ørsted over Delaware’s taxpayers, November 2020 is but a few months away.

Brandon Bortner
Fenwick Island