U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, have introduced the Offshore Wind for Territories Act, bipartisan legislation that would authorize offshore wind development in the exclusive economic zones adjacent to U.S. territories American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Currently, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) does not allow the U.S. secretary of the interior to lease areas offshore U.S. territories for renewable energy development, the lawmakers explain.
The legislation guarantees territories receive a state-equivalent share of all royalty payments made to the federal government by offshore wind developers for projects in their respective exclusive economic zone. This amounts to 37.5% of qualifying revenues, consistent with the revenue sharing structure established for Gulf Coast states under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act.
The bill also directs that 12.5% of revenues be deposited into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, thus providing dedicated funding for coral reef conservation in U.S. territories and elsewhere at no additional cost to American taxpayers.
“This bill gives American citizens better access to electricity, boosts revenue for U.S. territories and helps protect vulnerable coral reefs,” says Cassidy, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on energy. “Louisiana benefits from offshore energy revenue sharing, which helps restore and maintain our coastlines. This bill gives U.S. territories the same opportunity and promotes renewable energy.”
“For decades, Hawaii relied on fossil fuel imports for our energy needs. In less than a decade, we have made significant progress towards our 100 percent clean energy target, all while lowering electricity rates and creating jobs,” adds Schatz. “It is time to bring the clean energy future to the U.S. territories.”
The legislation was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón, R-P.R.
“We must pursue every avenue to address high energy prices in the U.S. territories and reduce our heavy reliance on foreign petroleum imports,” says González-Colón. “The Offshore Wind for Territories Act, which I recently introduced in the House, offers a sensible path to achieve this.”
According to the lawmakers, the measure is supported by the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA).
“Too often, federal policy overlooks the millions of Americans who call the territories home,” notes Randall Luthi, president of NOIA. “This bipartisan – and long-overdue – bill finally empowers the U.S. territories to tap their offshore wind resources, modernize their energy infrastructure and generate much-needed economic growth.”