Eye On Washington: Offshore Energy Development

April-May 2020 

Dan Sealy, NEC Legislative Analyst 

While election year activities ramp up, there is a great deal of activity related to conservation, public land management, energy and climate change. Here are just a few notes.

Offshore Wind

While the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is engaged in studies to permit offshore floating wind platforms along our coast locally, offshore wind projects are becoming big business globally. The impacts of that global interest and demand will be a factor in local decisions. The Norwegian-based company, Equinor ASA, formerly known as Statoil, has started to engage the big lobbying firms in Washington, D.C. to formulate federal regulations favorable to offshore wind production. To date, those efforts have been primarily directed toward the East Coast wind resources, but advancement in the east will translate directly to ramped up efforts on the West Coast. For the goal of reducing use of fossil fuels, this effort is positive and is now attracting the interests of energy companies in the Middle East such as Anbaric Development Partners. More interest and investment will increase funding to solve some of the problems associated with wind energy, such as impacts to fishing and birds. This is critical to the success of reducing reliance on fossil fuels. As Congress pushes banks and investment companies to divest of fossil fuel production, wind is one of the benefactors of that energy transfer. The bottom line: wind energy development and production, like fossil fuel, is likely to become less of a locally driven and owned market. This increased interest by international corporations is not unexpected on federal offshore coastal plains and it might have positive results if larger investments result in faster transfer from fossil fuels.  Humboldt County has a commodity that will only increase in worth and necessity over time.

Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling 

The threat proposed by the Trump Administration’s plan to open all US offshore federal waters to energy development continues. The House of Representatives passed a bill to stop new offshore energy exploration and development at the end of the last session of Congress, but the Senate took no action. Sen. Harris (D-CA) and Merkley (D-OR) introduced the “West Coast Ocean Protection Act” to block Trump’s plan. We hope the Act is taken up by the senate and the NEC, with help from Environmental Policy Intern, Aspen Stefanik, will be tracking this legislation and related news to report back to our readers. 

Public Lands and National Parks

Related to offshore energy production is a program called the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The fund was established by the federal government as a means to sweeten the bad taste of offshore energy development and expected negative impacts to coastal ecosystems. The LWCF skims a portion of the proceeds from offshore oil production and places it in the LWCF. That money is used across the country to fund everything from local recreation projects like organized sports facilities to trails. The LWCF funds have been diverted to inappropriate uses and stopped altogether. The LWCF is critical, however, to acquisition of new public lands, such as National Parks and wildlife Refuges  The NEC will be following two bills in the senate that may be enacted at the time this issue of the EcoNews is published: “S. 1081 would provide permanent funding for LWCF, and S. 500 would take unallocated oil and gas revenues to create a five-year, $6.5 billion trust fund to chip away at the deferred maintenance in national parks.”  (E&E News) 

 Environmental Policy Intern, Kenny Mort is helping the NEC to follow this legislation and will be keeping readers up to date. 

Wildlife

In addition, look for future news regarding federal legislation and actions related to Endangered Species, Fisheries Protections and establishment of Critical Wildlife Migration Corridors. Environmental Policy intern, Vanessa Odom, will be working with us on tracking those topics. 

A Note on Elections

As we track upcoming local, state and national elections, it is important that environmentalists research the positions and track records of candidates on a wide variety of conservation issues. If elected, those candidates may have a direct ability to influence the wise use and protection of resources. Remember that non-profit organizations such as the NEC are prohibited from, and should not engage in, partisan politics. There are a variety of other sources to provide facts on candidates’ records. Good information collection requires the use of unbiased and/or biased-admitted sources that have been vetted. Social media sources and political pundits range from false information to good information, but the NEC encourages our members and readers to use sound critical thinking when considering candidates and issues. Our world is better when our leaders are better and are guided by facts, not just opinion.  We will be electing representatives who will be responsible for protecting not just people, but literally everything on earth.