Posted on December 17, 2020
The Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) reports that the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2021 (NDAA), which today passed the Senate with a veto-proof majority, affirms that the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) applies to offshore wind and other renewable energy projects constructed on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
OCSLA, which dates to 1953, governs offshore energy activities in federal waters, and extends all U.S. laws to energy exploration, development, and production activities occurring in U.S. federal waters.
OMSA notes that studies have indicated that offshore wind development off the U.S. East Coast is poised to provide an immense economic benefit, with the possibility to provide for 83,000 jobs and $25 billion in economic activity.
“While the U.S. Department of the Interior has long believed that OCSLA applied to offshore wind development,” says OMSA, “recent statements by other government officials and those who sought to carve themselves out of U.S. laws has left some to question that fact and if U.S. investment in this market would be honored.”
Section 9503 of the just-passed NDAA is similar to an amendment offered by U.S. Representative John Garamendi (D-Calif.) to H.R. 4447, the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act. That legislation passed the U.S. House in September of this year.
“Offshore wind development will play a critical role in our nation’s transition to a clean energy economy,” Garamendi said. “Demand for offshore wind development in U.S. waters is strong, and Congress must act to ensure this burgeoning industry abides by federal laws and regulations, including the Jones Act, so we have the strongest possible labor, antitrust, and environmental protections. My common-sense amendment to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act simply clarifies that all existing safeguards that govern offshore oil and natural gas extraction also apply to wind energy. This will enable American workers to support offshore wind development and provide a critical economic stimulus for our nation, with construction on the first major offshore wind project in federal waters set to begin as soon as next year.”
Section 9503 also mirrored legislative language included in U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) S. 3485, the OFFSHORE Act of 2020, which was introduced earlier this year.
“The Louisiana maritime industry is one of the largest in the country and has been essential for the growth of energy development in U.S. waters for decades,” noted Cassidy. “Congress always intended for OCSLA to apply to renewable energy, but interpretations from some federal agencies created uncertainty. Passage of this language re-affirms Congress’ intent.”
OMSA says that as offshore wind projects started to be planned and developed, its members leveraged the experienced they gained in constructing and serving offshore oil and gas projects for the past 70-years to the construction of offshore wind projects. As a result, numerous OMSA members worked on the construction of the Block Island Offshore Wind farm, the first operational offshore wind farm in U.S. waters.
The interest and involvement of OMSA members in this emerging and transformational market led OMSA, as an organization, to become involved the offshore wind market as well, advocating for quicker approval of offshore wind permits, working to ensure that the Jones Act fully applied to this market, and other advocacy to ensure that the U.S. maritime industry competed on a level playing field with their international competitors in this market.
OMSA had advocated heavily for OCSLA provision, working with Congressional offices to ensure that Congress understood the importance of providing clarity, understood how offshore energy projects are constructed on a practical basis, and ensuring the language covered all activities related to offshore wind project.
OMSA President Aaron Smith applauded the passage of the legislation saying, “we are immensely grateful that Congress has passed legislation ensuring that all U.S. laws apply to offshore wind development and providing parity between offshore oil and gas projects and offshore wind projects.”