The San Juan Daily Star
Resident commissioner quizzes interior chief about wind power development
By The Star Staff
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) will form a new Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Working Group to study and advance wind energy development in federal waters off Puerto Rico, Resident Commissioner Jennifer González Colón announced this week in a written communication.
At the recent hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee to evaluate the DOI’s fiscal year (FY) 2024 budget, González Colón questioned DOI Secretary Deb Haaland about the department’s statutory efforts to study and seek ways to develop offshore wind farms in federal waters adjacent to U.S. territories.
The provision is part of Public Law 117-169, includes language from the resident commissioner’s measure, the Offshore Wind for Territories Act, which empowers the DOI to study and, if feasible, authorize the development of offshore wind energy facilities in federal waters adjacent to Puerto Rico and the rest of the U.S. territories.
“The FY 2024 budget request indicates that DOI, through its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), will begin moving forward with its leasing process to develop wind energy in federal waters in Puerto Rico in the current fiscal year (2023),” the resident commissioner asked during her question time. “Could you provide more information on what that planning process will look like? That is, what will it consist of and what kind of work will be carried out this year?”
In response, Haaland said “the department (DOI) and BOEM plan to initiate the process of identifying the area by forming an Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Working Group, which will help ensure early and frequent communication throughout the renewable energy leasing process.”
“We look forward to formally proposing the formation of the new Puerto Rico Working Group very soon and look forward to working with your office and the Government of Puerto Rico, and its various stakeholders, in advancing this issue,” Haaland added. “So we will be absolutely in touch about this and thank you for your question.”
González Colón also followed up on other matters under the department’s jurisdiction, including the need for personnel in the National Wildlife Refuges managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the island. The needs of the San Juan National Historic Site managed by the National Park Service (NPS) were also discussed. For fiscal year 2024, the DOI is proposing an allocation of nearly $42 million in Great American Outdoors Act funds for wall repairs in park fortifications.