May 27, 2021

Biden Administration Calls for More Offshore Wind; Turbines Off the Pacific Northwest Coast?

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By Gregory Zerzan, Shareholder

New federal programs offer support to energy projects, port developers, shipbuilders, and wind energy manufacturers.

On January 27, 2021, President Biden issued an “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” The Order announced the new Administration’s goal of “doubling offshore wind by 2030” and directed the Secretary of the Interior to “review siting and permitting processes. . . in offshore waters” and to work with other relevant federal agencies to achieve this goal.

The announcement was followed in late March by a meeting of the heads of various federal departments to help encourage offshore wind projects. At the meeting, the leadership of the Departments of the Interior, Energy, Commerce, and Transportation unveiled a series of measures designed to jump-start offshore energy development. These measures included:

  • The Interior Department’s commitment to completing review of at least 16 Construction and Operations Plans (COPs) by 2025, representing more than 19 gigawatts (GW) of new energy.
  • The Transportation Department’s announcement of a Notice of Funding Opportunity for port authorities and other applicants to apply for $230 million for port and intermodal infrastructure-related projects through the Port Infrastructure Development Program. The funding will support shore-side wind energy projects, including storage areas, laydown areas, and docking of vessels to transport items to offshore wind farms.
  • The Department of Energy’s commitment to $3 billion in funding opportunities for offshore projects through the Department’s Loan Programs Office’s Title XVII Innovative Energy Loan Guarantee Program. This program provides access to debt capital for energy infrastructure companies, such as manufacturers of turbines, ships, and foundations.

While a major focus of the meeting was the announcement of a new wind energy area off the New York and New Jersey coasts, the Administration made it clear that it seeks to develop offshore wind projects throughout America’s coastal areas. This renewed focus on coastal wind development will create new opportunities for businesses and non-profit institutions seeking government assistance in researching and developing projects along the Oregon and Washington coasts. It may also help ease the substantial regulatory hurdles that any offshore project must navigate.

Offshore wind projects face review under a broad range of laws, including the Endangered Species Act; the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act; the Ports and Waterways Safety Act; the Marine Mammal Protection Act; the Coastal Zone Management Act; the Clean Water Act; and the National Historic Preservation Act. Governing authorities involved can include the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; the United States Coast Guard; and state governments.

With its strong, steady winds, the Pacific Northwest coast and these new initiatives provide ripe opportunities both for energy projects and the associated industries that support them. Previous proposed coastal wind projects have at times faced local opposition and whether new initiatives will succeed against the regulatory and political challenges remains to be seen. What is clear is that an unprecedented level of federal support is now becoming available to support such projects, off the West Coast and elsewhere.

Gregory Zerzan is an attorney at Jordan Ramis PC. Prior to that, he was Principal Deputy Solicitor of the United States Department of the Interior.


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