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For rent: Windmill space in the Atlantic between Long Island and New Jersey

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration announced on Friday it would begin the formal process of selling leases to develop offshore wind farms in shallow water between Long Island and New Jersey as part of its drive to move the country to renewable energies.

The proposed sale, the first by the Biden administration, includes eight rental areas in New York Bight, a triangular area in the Atlantic Ocean between Cape May in New Jersey and Montauk Point on the eastern tip of Long Island. Administration officials have estimated that the wind turbines there could generate more than seven gigawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 2.6 million homes.

The move is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to revive the country’s offshore wind sector. Last month, he gave final approval to the country’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm off Martha’s Vineyard and said it would open up the California coast to wind farms. Earlier this week, the administration said it was considering whether to bring wind farms to the Gulf of Mexico. President Biden has set a goal of producing 30,000 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind nationwide by 2030.

This is in stark contrast to former President Donald J. Trump, who denigrated wind turbines, saying they destroy property values, cause cancer and kill birds. His administration promoted the development of fossil fuels and challenged the scientific consensus that emissions produced by the combustion of oil, gas and coal cause climate change. Mr. Trump began his administration by offering 73 million acres in the waters off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida for oil and gas exploration and a ended by selling oil and gas drilling rights in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Biden administration suspended drilling leases in the Arctic refuge last week.

“Climate change poses an existential threat, not only to our environment, but to our health, our communities and our economic well-being,” Home Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. She called the development of offshore wind and other renewable energy resources “an important element in dealing with this reality”.

The Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees the offshore activity, designated New York Bight as a “priority offshore wind area” in March, a first step before issuing new leases to wind developers. This was supposed to happen in 2019, but the Trump administration missed the deadline.

A 2020 study by Wood Mackenzie, an international energy consultancy, found that offshore wind development in New York Bight would support 32,200 jobs and $ 3.3 billion in wages per year.

The sale of the lease “not only opens a door for investment in New York, but will support jobs and businesses across the United States,” said Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, which represents the producers. offshore oil, gas and wind power.

But the fishing industry says wind farms will come into conflict with prime areas where scallops, clams and other seafood are caught, and that the federal government has ignored its concerns.

“Fishermen have not really been included as co-planners or trusted participants in offshore wind planning. Everything is really one-sided, ”said Annie Hawkins, executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, which advocates for the fishing industry.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management offers several stipulations as part of the lease sale, including one that would require working agreements.

The new rules would require companies that win rental contracts to “make all reasonable efforts” to enter into a project work agreement covering construction in the rental area. It is also proposed that companies create “mechanisms to deliver benefits to underserved communities” as well as improved communication with fishing communities and others.

The Home Office will hold a 60-day comment period for public comment on the lease sale and proposed new requirements before issuing a final notice announcing the date of the lease sale.

Offshore wind has been booming for more than a decade in Europe, where thousands of wind turbines now dot the coasts. Technology has been slower to take off in the United States, which currently only has two tiny operating wind farms near Rhode Island and Virginia.

But wind power is poised to expand rapidly along the east coast, with recent commitments from Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Virginia to purchase more than 25,000 megawatts of water. offshore wind power by 2035, according to the American Clean Power Association. .

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