• The San Juan Daily Star

Bill would enable offshore wind projects in PR, other territories

By The Star Staff

The U.S. government may be able to build new wind energy projects off the coast of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories if they are feasible, under a bill currently under review by the House of Representatives.

The legislation, scheduled for a markup hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, the second one this month, calls for the secretary of the interior to conduct at least one wind lease sale off the coasts of each of the territories. The wind lease sales will move forward if they are viable, the private sector is interested, and the territorial governments approve them.

If advanced by the committee, the bill will be incorporated into the $3.5 trillion budget package that contains several items hotly opposed by many Republicans.

Democrats, however, are hoping the $3.5 trillion budget “reconciliation” package will become law. Reconciliation is a parliamentary process that allows legislation related to budget matters to pass the Senate on a simple majority vote, without the threat of a filibuster as the Senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, at 50 each, giving Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote.

The measure would also revoke a 2020 executive order from former President Donald Trump that prevented exploration and development in offshore areas of the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic Ocean and the Straits of Florida.

It would also limit the executive branch ability to enact future restrictions on leasing of the areas, stating that such prohibitions can only be applied to oil and gas exploration projects. This would clear the path for offshore wind development.

In addition, the proposed budget resolution would raise royalty rates for both offshore and onshore fossil fuel production on public lands by about 150%.

The bill went last week to a markup session in the House Natural Resources Committee in which the Republicans tried to delay the session until Sept. 14 to allow Congress to focus on Hurricane Ida and the crisis in Afghanistan. After that failed, the committee considered over 50 amendments of about 100 that were filed, mostly by Republicans.

That led to about nine hours of debate on the package and forced Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva to extend debate into a supplemental hearing slated for Thursday.

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