While Dnistrian’s opponent and supporters accused him of hypocrisy, Dnistrian said in a phone interview that the timing of his work for LS Power Grid and his campaign was “good luck” for him because “I am very knowledgeable on this issue. When asked if he acknowledged his work for LS Power Grid during the election campaign, Dnistrian replied that he cited his experience in the energy sector, but said: “I don’t mention the customers, because I am under contract, which is very common in the sector. world. »
“My role at LS Power has given me an unusually deep understanding of this issue to inform the debate and stop playing politics and just try to be that central, reasonable person that people are dying for,” said said Dnistrian on Wednesday. Dnistrian provided “advisory services” to the company, including an assessment of local opinion on the projects, he said.
Gopal, who in a constituent publication recently voiced his opposition to offshore wind projects, criticized Dnistrian for “hypocritical double-dealing”.
“If we can’t be sure he will honestly discuss a major issue facing our coastline and clearly separate his personal financial interests from those of the public, how can families trust him to act in their interest rather than his on one of the major issues. about their future? Obviously he will say and do anything to get elected,” Gopal said in a statement.
New Jersey has approved three wind farms off its coast. But a recent poll showed that while not so long ago offshore wind power was overwhelmingly viewed positively by New Jersey residents, support – although still above water – plunged into a context of political polarization of the issue.
New Jersey and other East Coast states have seen a wave of dead whales and dolphins wash up on their beaches, leading activists and a leading New Jersey environmental group to blame sonar tests on the seabed at potential sites for the construction of wind turbines. Republicans seized on the issue, making it one of the two most dominant issues this election cycle, along with how schools handle ___ education and transgender students.
And 11th, a vibrant district that includes many of Monmouth County’s seaside towns and thrives on summer tourism, is ground zero for controversy.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and other experts have said there is no evidence that sonar tests contribute to whale deaths, despite their correlation with the tests. In May, New Jersey DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette blamed warming seas for drawing whale prey closer to shore, which, combined with increased ship traffic, has led to more collisions with whales. Many stranded whales showed signs of impact by ships.
Most New Jersey environmental groups remained supportive of the offshore wind industry. According to NOAA, an “unusual mortality event” for humpback whales along the East Coast began in 2016, stretching from Maine to Florida.
LS Power proposed a suite of options known as the Clean Energy Gateway which, according to independent analysis, would have cost between $1.3 billion and $2.2 billion. In the end, state utility regulators opted for a series of smaller projects, of which LS Power Grid got a small share.
Dnistrian timeline on X is full of tweets critical of offshore wind, but there’s just a hint that he worked for a company looking to get involved in the new industry. The only clue that Dnistrian was working for LS Power Grid was a link from April 2022 that he tweeted to a company press release urging New Jersey to include “comprehensive cost containment measures” in the offshore wind development process.
Although LS Power is not building the wind turbines, there would be no point in building the infrastructure without them, as they are essential for bringing electricity inland.
Accusations of hypocrisy on both sides
Dnistrian has worked to raise the visibility of LS Power Grid. One afternoon last fall, he emailed a POLITICO reporter to ask why the company hadn’t been mentioned in an article about companies vying to build power transmission projects. offshore wind energy. He wrote: “I represent LS Power Grid. »
“Can you please update your article and include LSPower Grid in this lineup? he said in that October 24 email. “Our feeling is that LS Power Grid is a strong contender for the transmission substation. »
In his interview with POLITICO, Dnistrian stressed that he was not opposed to offshore wind power and was uncertain whether the projects contribute to the death of whales.
“A dead whale washed up on the beach in Vin Gopal’s hometown, and he continues to dismiss it as having nothing to do with it. I’m not that smart…. But it’s worth taking a look,” Dnistrian said.
Dnistrian also said the state has not been transparent about what the wind turbines will cost taxpayers. “Either they know what the cost is and they don’t tell us, or they don’t know what the cost to taxpayers is. Which scenario is the worst? (New Jersey’s Rate Counsel division has raised concerns about project costs).
Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation in July that barely passed parliament, allowing one of the promoters, Ørsted, to keep hundreds of millions in federal tax incentives that would otherwise have gone to taxpayers. Gopal voted against the measure.
Robert Shimko, commercial director of IBEW Local 400 – which supports union member Gopal – is frustrated with Dnistrian’s opposition to offshore wind. Shimko said wind power would provide its workers in Monmouth and Ocean counties with a “huge amount of jobs” for “at least 10 years.”
Shimko said Dnistrian, at a fundraiser last year, even introduced him to an LS Power Grid executive and sought to arrange a meeting between him and company officials. Shimko said he believed the executive to be Scott Carver, assistant general counsel for LS Power. Carver did not respond to an email seeking comment.
“I was very disappointed to learn that he was working for LS Power,” Shimko said. “The wind was fantastic, but now that he’s running for senator, he’s against the wind, which puzzles me. I didn’t think he was that kind of person.
Gopal has faced his own accusations of offshore wind hypocrisy. An August newsletter for voters in his office presented an entry headlined “Gopal votes ‘no’ to Orsted ocean wind project and calls for an investigation into the impact of offshore wind energy. »
And despite the passage of the tax credit bill, New Jersey’s Democratic legislative leaders began playing defense of offshore wind this summer, Senate Speaker Nick Scutari and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin issuing a joint statement criticizing the Board of Public Utilities for soliciting bids for more offshore wind power. projects. They said there remain “many unanswered questions about the economic impact these projects will have on ratepayers as well as the potential impacts on one of our state’s biggest economic drivers, shore-based tourism.”
Republicans have criticized Gopal for hypocrisy, such as in a TV interview where he called those who link wind turbines to whale deaths “conspiracy theorists.”
But Gopal said in a statement that his stance was consistent as his concerns centered on potential costs to ratepayers, the potential effect of wind turbines on the shoreline economy and the environmental impact “of actual construction when it takes place.” “.
“I am committed to following the facts and finding out the truth – unlike my opponent who was literally paid off by an offshore wind transmission company less than a year ago and is now going after the industry by which he was just paid,” Gopal said.