WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Friday announced that it would begin the formal process of selling leases to develop offshore wind farms in shallow waters between Long Island and New Jersey as part of its push to transition the nation to renewable energy.
The proposed sale, the first of the Biden administration, includes eight lease areas in the New York Bight, a triangular area in the Atlantic Ocean between Cape May in New Jersey and Montauk Point on the eastern tip of Long Island. Administration officials estimated wind turbines there could generate more than seven gigawatts of electricity – enough to power more than 2.6 million homes.
The move is part of efforts by the Biden administration to jump-start the country’s offshore wind sector. Last month, it gave final approval to the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard and said it would open California’s coast to wind farms. Earlier this week, the administration said it was examining whether to bring wind farms to the Gulf of Mexico. President Biden has set a goal of generating 30,000 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind nationwide by 2030.
That contrasts sharply with former President Donald J. Trump, who disparaged wind turbines, claiming that they destroyed property values, caused cancer and killed birds. His administration favored the development of fossil fuels and disputed the scientific consensus that the emissions produced by the burning of oil, gas and coal are driving climate change. Mr. Trump began his administration by offering 73 million acres in waters off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida for oil and gas exploration and ended it by selling oil and gas drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The Biden administration last week suspended the drilling leases in the Arctic refuge.
“Climate change poses an existential threat, not just to our environment, but to our health, our communities, and our economic well-being,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. She called the development of offshore wind and other renewable energy resources “an important piece of addressing this reality.”
Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees offshore activity, designated the New York Bight a “priority offshore wind area” in March, a first step before issuing new leases to wind developers. That was slated to occur in 2019 but the Trump administration did not meet the deadline.
A 2020 study by Wood Mackenzie, an international energy consulting firm, found that the development of offshore wind in the New York Bight would support 32,200 jobs and $3.3 billion in wages annually.
The lease sale “not only opens a door to investment in New York, but will support jobs and businesses throughout the U.S.,” said Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, which represents offshore oil, gas and wind producers.
But the fishing industry says that the wind farms will conflict with prime areas where scallops, clams and other seafood are caught, and that the federal government has ignored its concerns.
“Fishermen really haven’t been included as co-planners or trusted participants in offshore wind planning. Everything is really one-sided,” said Annie Hawkins, executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, which advocates for the fishing industry.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is proposing several stipulations as part of the lease sale – including a provision that would require labor agreements.
The new rules would require companies that win lease awards to “make every reasonable effort” to enter into a project labor agreement covering construction in the lease area. There also is a proposed requirement for companies to create “mechanisms to provide benefits to underserved communities” as well as enhanced communication with fishing communities and others.
The Interior Department will hold a 60-day comment period for public feedback on the lease sale and the proposed new requirements before it issues a final notice announcing the date of the lease sale.
Offshore wind has been booming for more than a decade in Europe, where thousands of turbines now dot the coasts. The technology has been slower to take off in the United States, which currently has just two tiny wind farms operating near Rhode Island and Virginia.
But wind power is primed to develop quickly along the East Coast, with recent commitments from Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Virginia to buy more than 25,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2035, according to the American Clean Power Association.
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