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In a momentous step towards advancing its commitment to a clean energy future, the Department of the Interior has announced the first-ever offshore wind energy lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. This significant move aims to advance the Biden-Harris administration’s work to deploy 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy by 2030 and transition to a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035. The auction, set to take place on August 29, 2023, by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), encompasses areas with the potential to generate approximately 3.7 GW, enough to power nearly 1.3 million homes with clean and renewable energy.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland praised the historic announcement, stating, “Today’s announcement marks another historic step in the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to create a clean energy future. By catalyzing the offshore wind energy potential of the Gulf of Mexico, we can tackle the climate crisis, lower energy costs for families and create good-paying jobs.”
BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein emphasized the Gulf of Mexico’s pivotal role in America’s transition to a clean energy future, stating, “The Gulf of Mexico is poised to play a key role in our nation’s transition to a clean energy future. Today’s announcement follows years of engagement with government agencies, states, ocean users, and stakeholders in the Gulf of Mexico region. We look forward to continued collaboration in the years to come.”
President Biden’s overarching Investing in America agenda and “Bidenomics” strategy have been instrumental in fueling the American economy’s growth from the middle out and bottom up. Key components of this strategy include substantial investments in rebuilding infrastructure and driving over $490 billion in private-sector manufacturing and clean energy investments within the United States. These efforts are geared towards creating well-paying jobs and building a clean energy economy that combats climate change while making communities more resilient.
The lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico represents the latest achievement in the Biden-Harris administration’s ongoing efforts to expand the reach of offshore wind energy projects across the country. Earlier this month, the administration granted its third approval for a commercial-scale offshore wind energy project in the United States. This lease sale is also a part of the leasing path outlined by Secretary Haaland in 2021.
The Final Sale Notice (FSN) for the upcoming Gulf of Mexico lease auction, set to be published in the Federal Register on July 21, 2023, includes detailed information about the final lease areas, provisions, conditions, and auction details. It also identifies qualified companies eligible to participate in the lease auction. The regions included in the lease sale, spanning 102,480 acres offshore Lake Charles, Louisiana, and two areas offshore Galveston, Texas—one comprising 102,480 acres and the other 96,786 acres—have been carefully selected following years of engagement with government agencies, states, ocean users, and stakeholders in the Gulf of Mexico region.
During the initial Proposed Sale Notice stage, BOEM proactively engaged with various communities and stakeholders to gather feedback on several lease stipulations. These stipulations, now part of the Final Sale Notice, include provisions for bidding credits to companies that commit to supporting workforce training programs and developing a domestic supply chain for the offshore wind energy industry. Additionally, there are bidding credits available for establishing and contributing to a fisheries compensatory mitigation fund, aimed at offsetting potential negative impacts on commercial and for-hire recreational fisheries caused by offshore wind energy development in the Gulf of Mexico. The FSN also requires lessees to provide regular progress reports summarizing their engagement with Tribes and ocean users potentially affected by proposed offshore wind energy activities.
The Gulf of Mexico lease sale is expected to accelerate the growth of a burgeoning clean energy industry in the United States. BOEM projects that it will review at least 16 Construction and Operations Plans for commercial-scale offshore wind energy facilities by 2025, representing a clean energy capacity of more than 27 GW for the nation. With this groundbreaking step, the Biden-Harris administration is forging ahead with its vision of a sustainable and environmentally responsible future.