Senators seek to send more offshore wind revenues to coastal states

Written by Nick Blenkey
letter calls on Biden to prioritize U.S. maritime

Image: Architect of the Capitol

Current U.S. law requires all revenues generated from offshore wind leases and production beyond state waters be deposited in the U.S. Treasury. Now a bipartisan group of U.S. senators has introduced legislation that would see a share of that money go to coastal states.

Introduced by U.S. senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) the Reinvesting in Shoreline Economies & Ecosystems (RISEE) Act would amend the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) and would create a new dedicated stream of funding from future offshore wind development for coastal protection and resiliency.

This, say the senators, would allow for more equitable resource sharing between states, the federal government and conservation programs. Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith (R.-Miss.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Angus King (I-Maine), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.;) have signed on as original co-sponsors.

“Louisiana has learned to use money from offshore energy production to rebuild our coastline and protect our communities,” said Cassidy. “This bill takes the lessons that Louisiana has learned and adds more funding. This helps Louisiana and will also help other coastal states as they copy what Louisiana is now doing.”

“With climate change bearing down on us, coastal states like Rhode Island need vastly more resources to protect vulnerable homes and businesses from rising seas and other increasingly urgent threats,” said Whitehouse. “Our bill will allow states to get a share of federal revenues from the growing offshore wind industry to make those much-needed investments.”

Gulf of Mexico energy royalties are shared by four Gulf energy producing states (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas), conservation programs, and the U.S. Treasury.

The bill amends GOMESA by ways that include:

  • Eliminating the state revenue sharing cap, currently at $375 million.
  • Increasing the amount of GOMESA revenues shared with states from 37.5% to 50%.
  • Lifting the Land & Water Conservation Fund’s state side funding cap of $125 million.
  • Adding the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund as a fourth GOMESA equity (12.5%).
    Making oil and gas leases from 2000-2006 eligible for future GOMESA payments to Gulf coast states and the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund. Currently, only leases from 2007 to present are eligible for GOMESA payments. EIA reports 11 new oil and gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico will contribute to the overall growth in U.S. production are GOMESA eligible under current law. Another eight would also qualify under this proposed change.
  • Protecting GOMESA revenues from sequestration.

Louisiana constitutionally dedicates revenues from offshore energy production to pay for conservation, restoration, and environmental projects to preserve and restore its eroding coastline.

The RISEE Act sends 50% of offshore wind revenue to states adjacent to where offshore wind farms are developed. The state share is based on a formula developed by the Secretary of Interior to ensure states are receiving revenues from wind energy development off their coasts. By sharing offshore wind revenues with nearby states, the RISEE Act will offer budget incentives for state and local governments to facilitate successful siting processes, balancing the needs of different ocean users and getting turbines up and running.

The state funds can be used:

  • For coastal restoration, hurricane protection, or infrastructure;
  • To mitigate damage to fish, wildlife, or other natural resources, including through fisheries science and research; and
  • To implement a marine, coastal, or conservation management plan.

In addition, 37.5% of offshore wind revenues would serve as a further dedicated funding source for the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund. This fund ptovides payments to states based on a formula and also provides competitive grants to coastal and Great Lakes communities to respond to coastal erosion and sea level rise, restore coastal habitat, and make improvements to coastal infrastructure.

In addition to many environmental protection and conservation groups, among those supporting the RISEE Act are Ørsted, the American Clean Power Association, and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

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