A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has introduced a measure that seeks to ensure states get half the revenue generated by wind farms that produce electricity off their coasts.
“Louisiana has learned to use money from offshore energy production to rebuild our coastline and protect our communities,” said Bill Cassidy, R-La., one of 10 senators sponsoring the measure. “This bill takes the lessons that Louisiana has learned and adds more funding. This helps Louisiana and will also help other coastal states as they copy what Louisiana is now doing.”
The Reinvesting in Shoreline Economies and Ecosystems, or RISEE, Act would also give Louisiana and other states a greater share of oil and gas revenue from drilling in federal waters off their coasts.
Big picture:Biden boosts offshore wind energy, wants to power 10 million homes by 2030
The proposal comes as the Biden administration pushes for the U.S. to generate 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030. That’s enough to power about 10 million homes and is roughly 1,000 times the amount the nation produces now from offshore wind.
It’s part of the administration’s broader initiative to curb the use of fossil fuels blamed for carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.
Where the money would go
“With climate change bearing down on us, coastal states like Rhode Island need vastly more resources to protect vulnerable homes and businesses from rising seas and other increasingly urgent threats,” bill co-sponsor Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said in a news release. “Our bill will allow states to get a share of federal revenues from the growing offshore wind industry to make those much-needed investments.”
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The RISEE Act would send 50% of offshore wind revenue to coastal states and the rest to the federal treasury. States would have to use the money for any of these purposes:
► Coastal restoration, hurricane protection or infrastructure.
► Offsetting damage to fish, wildlife or other natural resources caused by offshore wind-energy development.
► Creating and enacting marine-, coastal- or conservation-management plans.
Most U.S. offshore wind development has been focused in the Northeast, but officials began June 11 soliciting interest from companies interested in leasing federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico for such projects.
Harnessing region’s energy expertise
“The Gulf of Mexico has decades of offshore energy development expertise. Today’s announcement represents the first step in harnessing that expertise and applying it to the renewable energy sector,” said Mike Celata, regional director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s New Orleans office. “Working directly with our partners in the Gulf, we will make sure that offshore renewable energy development proceeds in an orderly, safe and environmentally responsible manner.”
Related:Local shipbuilder to construct wind farm service vessel, creating over 300 jobs
Among states, Louisiana has the fourth-greatest potential for offshore wind energy, according to a 2020 study by the agency and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. A single 600-megawatt offshore wind project could support about 4,470 jobs with $445 million in overall economic impact during construction, the study says. It would yield an estimated 150 permanent jobs with a $14 million annual economic impact.
Yellow support structures, or jackets, for the Block Island wind farm off Rhode Island were built by Gulf Island Fabrication in Houma.
Houma-Thibodaux area businesses are already involved with the offshore wind industry. In 2014, Gulf Island Fabrication landed a contract to build support structures for a wind farm off Rhode Island. And last year, Galliano-based Edison Chouest Offshore won a contract to build and operate a 260-foot ship that will help run and maintain windfarms off the northeastern U.S. coast.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared this Louisiana Wind Week 2021 and has scheduled a series of online sessions in which state, energy and environmental officials will discuss plans to make wind part of the state’s energy future.
“While Louisiana’s onshore wind resources are limited, Louisiana’s coast is ripe for wind-energy development,” Edwards said in a news release. “Thanks to years of oil-and-gas exploration experience, Louisiana’s existing infrastructure, workforce and business community give us a strategic advantage in developing offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico and all coastal waters of the United States.”
Sending more oil money to Gulf states
As it stands, the federal government shares Gulf oil revenue with the region’s four energy-producing states: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Louisiana’s share is dedicated by the state constitution to coastal restoration and hurricane protection, with a small share going to coastal infrastructure, such as roads and bridges.
Last year, Louisiana received $156 million through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA, the 2006 federal law that created the revenue-sharing program. Most of that money is set aside for two local projects:
► $50 million for a permanent floodgate on Bayou Chene that will protect Gibson, Bayou Black and parts of six parishes from spring floods from the Atchafalaya River.
► $65 million for a project that includes a pump station on the Mississippi River at Donaldsonville that will triple the amount of fresh water entering Bayou Lafourche to combat saltwater intrusion. The project will help restore coastal marshes and ensure a stable source of drinking water for over 300,000 residents in Terrebonne, Lafourche, Assumption and Ascension parishes.
The new legislation would amend GOMESA to:
► Eliminate the state revenue-sharing cap, now at $375 million.
► Increase the amount shared with states from 37.5% to 50%.
► Make oil leases from 2000-06 eligible for future payments to Gulf Coast states. Now, only leases from 2007 to present are eligible.
Cassidy said the bill has garnered support from various local, state and national officials and organizations, including parish presidents in Terrebonne and Lafourche, the La. 1 Coalition, the Morganza Action Coalition, Thibodaux-based coastal advocacy group Restore or Retreat, the North Lafourche Levee District, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisia, GNO Inc., the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Audubon Society.