Biden eyes Gulf of Mexico for wind energy opportunities
Fresh off announcing its intent to explore wind energy initiatives on the U.S. West Coast, the Biden administration is now looking for opportunities to do the same in the Gulf of Mexico.
On Tuesday, 8 June, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced it would release a request-for-information (RFI) solicitation to determine if there’s interest in employing wind technology off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
While the primary focus is on wind technologies, officials with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will entertain interest and insights into other renewable energy alternatives.
“The Gulf of Mexico has decades of offshore energy development expertise,” Mike Celata, regional director of BOEM’s Gulf of Mexico office in New Orleans, Louisiana, said in a statement. “Today’s announcement represents the first step in harnessing that expertise and applying it to the renewable energy sector.”
The RFI release will also trigger a 45-day public comment period where stakeholders can provide the government with insights on the potential environmental impact that offshore wind farms would have and identify other ways the waters are used.
On Tuesday, 15 June, BOEM will hold its first Gulf of Mexico Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force with federal, tribal, state, and local officials from the four states. The purpose of the task force is to exchange and solicit information as well as coordinate planning efforts.
“While the Gulf of Mexico has a long history of oil and gas development, this announcement signals new job opportunities for the region, while also helping to meet our nation’s objective of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by the end of this decade,” American Clean Power Association CEO Heather Zichal said.
The Biden administration sees offshore wind development playing a vital role in developing renewal energy sources within the country. Presently, the bureau has leased about 1.7 million acres off the Atlantic coast for wind energy projects. BOEM has 17 leases with operators from Cape Cod in New England to Cape Hatteras off North Carolina’s shores.
And leaders in eastern states are interested in more opportunities for development.
Governors from nine Atlantic Coast states wrote a letter to President Biden saying they were “greatly encouraged” by his commitment to offshore wind energy development. However, they also want to make sure other industries, including commercial fishing, are involved and engaged.
As part of that effort, they used a letter to call on the president to ensure there’s funding to support U.S.Commerce Department surveys on fishing quotas and regulations.
“To advance offshore wind energy development in an environmentally responsible way that ensures renewable energy coexists with natural resources, ocean users, and communities, including fishermen and the tribes, we urge the federal government to provide leadership on regional natural resource impact assessment and mitigation frameworks for demonstrated negative impacts on marine resources, fisheries, and local cultures,” the letter stated.
The letter was written on Friday, 4 June, by Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Ned Lamont of Connecticut, Janet Mills of Maine, Larry Hogan of Maryland, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Daniel McKee of Rhode Island, and Ralph Northam of Virginia.
The governors also said they commend Biden on the steps his administration has taken to address fisheries as the country looks to generate more power from offshore wind turbines.
Fishing industry officials may disagree with that last statement.
Last month, the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a group of fishing associations and companies, panned the Biden administration’s decision to proceed with the Vineyard Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, saying the decision essentially included no measures to address the project’s impact on area fisheries.
“To the best of our knowledge, BOEM did not even consider any mitigation measures recommended by RODA or any fisheries professionals, scientists, or natural resource managers, despite having clearly defined requests available to them,” the alliance said in a statement.
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