Interior bolsters offshore wind by revoking Trump-era legal opinion

Source: By Rachel Frazin, The Hill • Posted: Monday, April 12, 2021

The Interior Department on Friday bolstered offshore wind energy by revoking a legal opinion issued during the Trump administration that gave more weight to fishing concerns about that kind of energy development.

Robert Anderson, the Interior Department’s principal deputy solicitor, issued an opinion that reversed the Trump-era solicitor Daniel Jorjani’s December opinion that the department should err “on the side of less interference rather than more interference” in fishing when it comes to offshore wind activities

Anderson, in his new legal opinion, said instead that the Interior secretary should seek to “strike a rational balance” between various interests.

At issue is a section of the law that aims for “prevention of interference with reasonable uses” of the ocean.

Jorjani’s interpretation followed another memo that similarly interpreted the same section of the law.

Jorjani argued that this memo’s interpretation of the law was too narrow and only preventing interference with the legal right to fish.

But Anderson argued that Jorjani’s opinion “failed to note” that the law also says that the “interference with reasonable uses” is followed by the phrase “(as determined by the Secretary),” which he argued gives the secretary discretion to decide.

The difference in opinions comes as the Biden administration seeks to boost renewable energy as part of its transition to net-zero emissions. The Interior Department has recently moved closer to approving a major offshore wind project.

President Biden recently said he’ll nominated Anderson to be Interior’s top lawyer.