The strong gusts blowing off the coasts of Puerto Rico, Guam and other US territories offer big green energy potential – but for decades, a quirk in federal law meant renewable developers have been barred from tapping them.
Now, a tax and climate bill passed by the Senate on Sunday would lift that prohibition, opening coastal waters around the five US territories to offshore wind development and compelling the US Interior Department to pursue potential lease sales there. The shift, which the House must still clear as part of the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, is being cast as a win for island territories that are heavily reliant on fossil fuels, including diesel, for electricity and are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
“The territories need to be able to diversify their energy,” said Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association. This will also give them “the opportunity for investment in their backyard.”
The legislation would rewrite a roughly seven-decade-old provision in federal law defining what “submerged lands” are available for offshore energy development, so it encompasses the territories, also including the Northern Mariana Islands, US Virgin Islands and American Samoa. The bill would require the Interior Department to seek industry feedback on potential wind lease sales around the territories by Sept. 30, 2025.
The legislation also would lift a 10-year moratorium on the sale of wind leases off the coasts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. The prohibition, imposed by former President Donald Trump, threatened to “stifle the growth of our clean energy economy,” said Representative Deborah Ross, a Democrat from North Carolina.
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