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6 protesters arrested as onshore testing work for New Jersey wind farm begins

OCEAN CITY, N.J. (AP) — Police arrested six protesters Tuesday who tried to disrupt the start of land-based testing for New Jersey's first offshore wind farm. But the work progressed anyway.

Police in Ocean City, which has become the hub of resistance to offshore wind projects in New Jersey and elsewhere along the U.S. East Coast, arrested demonstrators after the city said they failed to heed four warnings to get out of the roadway.

“There were three people lying in the street,” said Robin Shaffer, a spokesman for Protect Our Coast NJ, a residents' group opposed to the local project and to offshore wind in general.

Each of the protesters, none of whom lived in Ocean City, was charged with failure to disperse and obstruction of public pathways, city spokesman Doug Bergen said.

Mayor Jay Gillian, himself an opponent of the wind farm project, said he wishes police did not have to arrest anyone, but added, “This is how democracy works. I understand their passion.”

Orsted, the Danish wind energy developer, began onshore testing work Tuesday morning to investigate the proposed route for its power cable connecting the offshore wind turbines with the electrical grid several miles away at the site of a former coal-fired power plant in Upper Township.

The work involved cutting holes into roadways, checking on the location of existing utilities and doing soil and groundwater sampling for the project, called Ocean Wind I, the company said.

“Ocean Wind I continues to progress with today’s commencement of in-road site investigation in Ocean City," spokesman Tom Suthard said. "We respect the public’s right to peacefully protest. However, the health and safety of the workers and members of the local community is our top priority. We appreciate the support of local law enforcement who work every day to keep our communities safe.”

Orsted has approval from the federal government to build Ocean Wind I, which would put 98 wind turbines off the coast of Ocean City and Atlantic City, generating enough electricity to power 500,000 homes. It also has state approval for a second project, Ocean Wind II, although that project needs numerous additional approvals before it can begin construction.

The company said it still has not made the final decision on whether to proceed with the projects, which it said are costing more and taking longer than anticipated. But protesters promised to keep up the pressure on the company.

“This testing today only proves that Orsted is continuing with the project, and we are going to continue to fight in court and in the streets if we have to,” said Shaffer, a spokesman for opponents and a member of Ocean City's Board of Education.

The group, along with other similar organizations, oppose offshore wind, claiming it will harm the environment, cost vastly more than anticipated, and ruin views of an unobstructed ocean horizon, potentially damaging tourism.

The wind industry says the turbines won't always be visible from shore, depending on weather conditions. It says its companies take extensive measures to comply with environmental regulations.

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