Washing up on the Shores of a Landlocked District


This week’s political intrigue in LD-26 began with dead whales and ended with state Sen. Joe Pennacchio being unanimously endorsed by Passaic County Republicans.

“It’s a reaffirmation of the hard work we’ve done,” Pennacchio said Thursday evening after being notified of the endorsement. “We are going to commit to them the same hard work that we’ve done.”

Pennacchio is being challenged for the district’s Republican nomination by Tom Mastrangelo, a veteran Morris County freeholder/commissioner.

“There’s no ambiguity, ” Pennacchio said of the Passaic endorsement. “Where my opponent thinks he has any type of support is strictly in his head.”

The mostly Republican district ranges over parts of Morris and Passaic counties. The four Passaic towns in the district are Bloomingdale, Pompton Lakes, Ringwood and Wanaque.

As for Mastrangelo, he has beached whales on his mind. .

He asked this week why Pennacchio hasn’t been more outspoken about dead whales washing up on New Jersey beaches.

As many Republicans are wont to do, Mastrangelo linked the dead mammals to the state’s fledgling wind energy project.

“Why haven’t we heard from Sen. Joe Pennacchio … on this very important project,” Mastrangelo asked in a release. “He’s been in the legislature for two decades and he doesn’t see that dead whales are an obvious warning sign that something is wrong.”

Mastrangelo said the GOP caucus needs more lawmakers who will fight and he pledged to do just that.

Pennacchio didn’t seem all that impressed with Mastrangelo’s shot across the bow.

The senator said Mastrangelo’s silence has been “deafening” in regard to thousands of COVID deaths in state-run veterans’ homes. Pennacchio has pushed hard for investigations into the deaths – so far to no avail.

He got a bit dramatic recently, asking in a release, “Does anyone in power in Trenton give a ‘s…’ about our veterans homes?”

While this is common campaign fodder on both sides, there is a larger, simmering issue here.

The Murphy Administration strongly supports harnessing wind power as the nation transitions to clean energy. A Dutch company, Orsted, is now doing survey work and taking soil samples from the ocean floor off the south Jersey coast. The project. which is called – fittingly – Ocean Wind, has offices in Atlantic City.

Many Republicans are philosophically skeptical about moves to clean energy.

Now the skeptics have some real evidence to go with.

About 10 dead whales have washed up on New Jersey-New York beaches in the last two and a half months.

That has prompted Republicans – Mastrangelo among them – to link the dead whales to the wind project.

“With dead mammals washing up on New Jersey beaches and with a lack of financial details on the state’s offshore wind farm program,  the Ocean First project should be halted until there is legislative oversight of the project,” he says.

One problem with the whale part of the equation is that there is no evidence the wind project is the reason some whales are dying, Keep in mind that no construction has begun.

Benjamin Laws, an official with the NOAA, or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has told CNN that, “There are no known connections between any of these offshore wind activities and any whale strandings.” Nor has it been proven that sonar equipment used to map the ocean floor could have fatally harmed the whales, he said.

Of course when politics is involved, facts get lost.

Mastrangelo also brought up another problem – finances.

He said the Legislature should explore whether the project is as financially viable as proposed.

Mastrangelo also noted that Goldman Sachs, where Murphy was once a senior executive, is heavily invested in Orsted.

This prompted him to ask, “Is the governor’s overwhelming enthusiasm for this project and his reluctance to acknowledge that there may be problems with the offshore wind construction influenced by his friends at Goldman?”

That may be an understandable quip in the world of politics. However, in fairness, Murphy retired from Goldman Sachs 17 years ago.

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