New York delegation: End offshore-wind delays now

Get cranking: Congresswoman Kathleen Rice (at podium) and friends in environmental and economic circles wants the federal government to stop delaying offshore-wind development.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Long Island political, environmental and labor leaders are calling on Washington to quit stalling and finally designate a final Wind Energy Area in New York waters.

On Wednesday – after sending a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt formally calling for the designation, signed by a bipartisan selection of New York’s Congressional delegation – U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY 4) joined local environmental and labor leaders in Long Beach to bang the offshore-wind drum.

Kathleen Rice: All the Bight moves.

The DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management was scheduled to announce national Wind Energy Areas – including details on developable areas within the New York-New Jersey Bight, a roughly triangular slice of Atlantic coastal waters straddling the two states – in early 2019, but final designations still have not been made.

The delay – not surprising from a federal administration desperately clinging to fossil fuels and fearful of noise cancer – is stymying lease auctions, where developers bid on the rights to apply for federal wind-project permits.

And that’s enough of that, according to Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito, who noted Wednesday, “We cannot afford to wait as the federal government drags its feet in designating wind-energy development areas.”

“Climate change impacts are already a reality on Long Island,” Esposito said. “We are documenting sea-level rise, warmer temperatures, a loss of cold-water species, ocean acidification and extreme weather events that put our health, ecosystem and communities in danger.

“New York must meet its renewable-energy goals, decarbonize the power sector and implement a just transition away from fossil fuels if we are going to fight climate change locally,” she added. “Action today will keep us safer tomorrow.”

Adrienne Esposito: Act now.

The letter makes similar ecological points – and even dangles a golden carrot, noting the federal government stands to receive $447 million in Fiscal Year 2021 revenue from national offshore-wind lease sales, with “a large portion of that” generated by New York Bight developments.

Signed by Rice and 11 other New York delegates – including Long Island-based U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY 3) and one Republican, northwesternmost New York’s Tom Reed (R-NY 23) – the letter notes a regional commitment to developing 9,000 megawatts of offshore-wind power by 2035 (enough to power six million homes) and a slew of inherent environmental and economic advantages.

It also presses the Department of the Interior to commit or get off the pot, so to speak: “We urge DOI to move the designation process forward by issuing final WEAs for the [New York Bight] as soon as possible, followed by immediately advancing to a competitive leasing auction.”

Such actions (and auctions) are critical to regional economics: “Additional investments in offshore wind and renewable energy jobs will help strengthen the Long Island economy,” Long Island Association President and CEO Kevin Law said in a statement.

They are an ecological imperative: “[Offshore-wind development] represents an untapped potential for Long Island to lead New York State’s effort to reduce its carbon footprint,” noted New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe.

And at the end of the day, they’re “the only chance we have against climate change,” according to Rice.

“Delaying these projects is not only harmful to the environment and to public health, but also a hinderance to our economy, which will reap the rewards of thousands of new jobs from this industry,” the congresswoman added. “The Department of Interior must move this process forward and clear the way for new offshore wind projects to get underway.”