Wind turbines

Wind turbines generate electricity at the Block Island Wind Farm on July 7, 2022 near Block Island, Rhode Island.

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'This Is Huge': Biden Proposes First Gulf of Mexico Offshore Wind Lease Sales

"There is no time to waste in making bold investments to address the climate crisis, and building a strong domestic offshore wind industry is key to meeting that challenge head on."

Clean energy advocates on Wednesday applauded an announcement from U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who said her department is proposing the first-ever offshore lease sale for wind power in the Gulf of Mexico, long a center of oil and gas extraction.

Haaland said the proposed sale is part of the Biden administration's efforts to "jump-start our offshore wind industry and harness American innovation to deliver reliable, affordable power to homes and businesses."

"America's clean energy transition is happening right here and now," said the interior secretary. "There is no time to waste in making bold investments to address the climate crisis, and building a strong domestic offshore wind industry is key to meeting that challenge head on."

The Biden administration aims to open up more than 100,000 offshore acres near Lake Charles, Louisiana and nearly 200,000 acres near Galveston, Texas as part of President Joe Biden's plan to develop wind power along every U.S. coastline.

"These areas have the potential to power almost 1.3 million homes with clean energy," the Department of the Interior said.

The development of wind power in the Gulf of Mexico would be significant in the United States' shift toward renewable energy. The Gulf is the country's primary source of offshore oil and gas, generating about 97% of the country's supply from offshore sources.

The Gulf was the site of the largest marine oil spill in history in 2010, when an explosion on BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 people and sent about 210 million gallons of oil into the water.

"This is huge," said Antonio Arellano, vice president of communications for NextGen America, of the news that Biden is planning to begin the region's shift away from fossil fuel energy.

Haaland's announcement came a year after a wind power lease sale off the coast of New York and New Jersey brought in $4.37 billion, an unprecedented amount for energy leases. In December, companies paid the federal government more than $757 million for wind leases in the Pacific Ocean.

Biden aims to deploy a total of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, which could power 10 million homes and create 44,000 jobs in the industry as well as an additional 33,000 jobs in communities supported by offshore wind, according to the administration.

A 60-day public comment period on the proposed sale will commence later this month after the proposal is published in the Federal Register. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is seeking feedback on lease stipulations including:

  • Bidding credits for bidders that commit to supporting workforce training programs for the offshore wind industry, developing a domestic supply chain for the offshore wind industry, or a combination of both;
  • Establishing and contributing to a fisheries compensatory mitigation fund or contributing to an existing fund to mitigate potential negative impacts to commercial fisheries caused by offshore wind development; and
  • Requiring that lessees provide a regular progress report summarizing engagement with tribes and ocean users potentially affected by proposed offshore wind activities.

"BOEM is committed to ensuring any offshore wind activities are done in a manner that avoids or minimizes potential impacts to the ocean and ocean users," said BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein. "Today's announcement comes after years of engagement with tribes, other government agencies, ocean users, and stakeholders."

The National Audubon Society applauded the proposal and said it plans to work with the Biden administration and wind energy producers to protect North America's migrating birds, half of which rely on the Gulf of Mexico.

"Clean energy is a critical part of reducing emissions and climate threats that affect both people and wildlife, and we are committed to working with energy producers to make sure projects are sited and operated responsibly," said Garry George, director of the Audubon Society's clean energy initiative.

American Clean Power (ACP), which represents the renewable energy industry, called the Interior Department's announcement "another significant milestone in the development of domestic offshore wind production."

"This proposed lease sale will continue the legacy of energy production in the Gulf of Mexico, providing Americans with an affordable clean energy supply. It will also help secure our nation's energy independence while reducing costs for consumers," said Josh Kaplowitz, vice president for offshore wind at ACP. "By harnessing our abundance of renewable natural resources, these projects will unleash economic growth here at home and create good paying jobs."

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