(OM) President Joe Biden’s administration is tapping the brakes on offshore wind energy development in the Gulf of Mexico to make way for a new fast-tracked effort to open more federal waters to oil and gas drilling.
The move, as reported by New Orleans-based NOLA.com, will delay the first-ever auction of wind energy lease areas in the Gulf by at least six months.
Wind energy companies had been lining up to bid on a 174,000-acre area south of Lake Charles and a 508,000-acre area near Galveston, Texas, in late December. The two lease areas have the potential to generate enough power for almost three million homes, according to the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
But Biden’s signing of the Inflation Reduction Act last August put those plans on hold, likely until sometime this summer, federal regulators confirmed this week. The act requires that the government offer new drilling opportunities across a vast area of the Gulf, and mandates that wind energy projects take a back seat to oil and gas projects on public lands and waters.
Last year, the Biden administration canceled a pair of oil and gas lease sales, citing conflicting court rulings on proposed lease sales. The Inflation Reduction Act revived both sales as well as a previously nullified lease sale from 2021. BOEM has had to take staff off other projects to meet upcoming leasing deadlines set by the act, a bureau spokesman said.
BOEM’s most recent timeline for the Gulf includes a multi-year process involving site assessments, surveys and environmental review. Barring any more slowdowns, wind developers could begin installing turbines in 2030.
Wind industry leaders say they never counted on BOEM to stick to their initial auction schedule in the Gulf, which appeared more hopeful than realistic.
Sam Salustro, vice president of strategic communications for the Business Network for Offshore Wind, was quoted to say: “BOEM’s been sticking well to their initial timeline and are still projected to lease seven areas by 2025. This overall consistency and commitment is very important to the industry even if there’s a lapse of a few months.”