WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced the Offshore Wind for Territories Act, bipartisan legislation authorizing offshore wind energy development in the exclusive economic zone 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 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 percent of qualifying revenues, consistent with the revenue sharing structure established for Gulf Coast states under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA).
The bill also directs that 12.5 percent of revenues be deposited into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, thus providing a 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,” said Dr. 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. It is time to bring the clean energy future to the U.S. territories,” said Senator Schatz.
The legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 1014) by the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR).
“We must pursue every avenue to address high energy prices in the U.S. territories and reduce our heavy reliance on foreign petroleum imports. The Offshore Wind for Territories Act, which I recently introduced in the House, offers a sensible path to achieve this. Specifically, it corrects federal law to authorize the Department of the Interior to study the viability for offshore wind energy development in the Exclusive Economic Zone adjacent to each of the five territories. I want to thank Senators Cassidy and Schatz for leading on this issue and introducing companion legislation in the Senate. I look forward to working with them to enact this important measure into law,” said Rep. González-Colón.
The legislation is supported by the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA).
“Too often, federal policy overlooks the millions of Americans who call the territories home. 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,” said NOIA President Randall Luthi.