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USA - Analysis | The first offshore wind lease sale under Biden is coming soon. Will the fishing industry intervene?

The Interior Department is expected to greenlight the first offshore wind lease sale under President Biden as soon as this week, a move that would lower the nation's reliance on the fossil fuels that are dangerously warming the planet.

The Biden administration is set to hold its first offshore wind lease sale

The Interior Department is expected to greenlight the first offshore wind lease sale under President Biden as soon as this week, a move that would lower the nation's reliance on the fossil fuels that are dangerously warming the planet.

But the effort has sparked concern from the fishing industry, which contends that towering turbines in the waters off New England could harm fishermen's catches and livelihoods. It's the latest sign of tensions between Biden's ambitious clean-energy agenda and industry interests concerned about its economic impact.

The details: Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is poised to issue a final sale notice for the New York Bight, a nearly 800,000-acre area of the Atlantic Ocean south of Long Island.

  • Multiple industry observers predicted the notice would come this week, although Interior spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz declined to comment on a potential regulatory decision.
  • More than 7 gigawatts of carbon-free electricity could be produced in the New York Bight, enough to power roughly 2.6 million homes, according to the agency. That would bring the nation much closer to meeting Biden's goal of generating 30 gigawatts of power from offshore wind energy by 2030.

“Offshore wind is large-scale clean energy, and getting it online as fast as we can is our best strategy to mitigate the effects of climate change,” Liz Burdock, president and CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, told The Climate 202.

BOEM released an environmental assessment for the New York Bight in late December, finding that wind turbines would have “no significant impact” on the local environment. The final sale notice would clear the way for the area to be auctioned off to wind developers.

  • Tory Mazzola, a spokesman for Ørsted, a Danish renewable energy company and a potential bidder, said in an email that the company “looks forward” to the final sale notice for the New York Bight.
  • Mary Streett, head of U.S. advocacy for BP, which formed a strategic partnership last year with Equinor ​​​​​​to pursue U.S. offshore wind investments​, said in a statement that “we are encouraged by and support BOEM’s leadership and efforts to increase opportunities for offshore wind development.”

Headwinds ahead

However, the Biden administration faces challenges in reaching its clean energy targets by the end of this decade.

  • At the moment, the United States only has seven commercial turbines — five in Rhode Island and two in Virginia. By contrast, Europe has already deployed more than 5,000 offshore turbines.
  • Opposition to new offshore wind projects in the United States has come from “coastal homeowners worried about spoiled seaside views; fishermen concerned about the impact on their catch; and conservationists concerned about the impact on endangered whales,” The Washington Post's Dino Grandoni previously reported.

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