Bipartisan bill would split offshore wind revenue with states

Source: By Heather Richards, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, March 16, 2020

A bipartisan group of senators say offshore wind energy revenue should go to state as well as federal coffers.

The “Opening Federal Financial Sharing to Heighten Opportunities for Renewable Energy (OFFSHORE) Act” would create a revenue-sharing model for offshore wind “fees, rentals, bonuses [and] royalties” similar to ones used for offshore oil and gas extraction. Current law would direct offshore wind revenue to the U.S. Treasury.

Under S. 3485, states within 75 miles of the geographic center of offshore wind farms on the outer continental shelf — federal waters — would receive 37.5% of federal revenue from those projects.

The bill was introduced Thursday by the climate-focused Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.); Maine independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats; and Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy.

States have committed to buying more than 25 gigawatts of wind power. For now, there is only one project operating in the United States: the 30-megawatt Block Island pilot project off the coast of Rhode Island that came online in 2016.

Whitehouse said the push for offshore wind represents a new income stream that could go to state coastal restoration efforts, hurricane preparedness and other concerns.

“The clean, reliable energy produced every day by Rhode Island’s first-in-the-nation offshore wind farm shows us what the future of the energy industry will look like if we can scale up offshore wind,” Whitehouse said in a statement.

“By sharing revenue with the states that have worked hard to bring offshore wind projects online, we are creating additional funding streams for their investments in coastal resiliency and infrastructure upgrades.”

Whitehouse’s office noted in a press release that “the new revenue sharing model would cover the region in federal waters where most offshore wind farm development is expected.”

The legislation would also dedicate some offshore wind revenue, 12.5%, for coastal resilience projects. And it would create a funding stream for the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund.