Virginia’s Youngkin supports offshore wind projects; doesn’t join Biden coalition

Source: By Tyler Arnold, The Center Square • Posted: Tuesday, June 28, 2022

FILE - Wind Farm Ocean Power Energy Sea Offshore Turbines

(The Center Square) – Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin did not enter Virginia into an offshore wind energy coalition led by President Joe Biden, but will still support offshore wind energy, according to a spokesperson for the governor.

Biden formed a coalition with 11 east coast governors designed to grow the offshore wind industry in the region. One of the president’s goals is to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, which a White House news release said would power 10 million homes and support 77,000 jobs.

The coalition included eight Democratic governors and three Republican governors, but Virginia was the only state bordering the Atlantic Ocean north of South Carolina that did not join. North Carolina is in the coalition, but South Carolina is not.

“Governor Youngkin’s administration has participated in calls with the White House on offshore wind projects and continues to engage on this topic,” Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson for the governor, said in a statement provided to The Center Square.

“The Commonwealth is already a leader in the offshore wind industry, and the Youngkin administration is focused on the economic development opportunities presented by this emerging sector in a way that is consistent with promoting jobs for Virginia and its right-to-work philosophy,” Porter said. “The governor supports and is fully committed to Virginia’s current offshore wind project, and we will continue to support any future offshore wind development that meets Virginia’s economic needs and protects ratepayers from high energy costs.”

Youngkin has taken a different approach to energy than his Democratic predecessor, former Gov. Ralph Northam, who signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act. The bill, which Youngkin wants repealed, requires the commonwealth to produce all of its energy from sources that have no carbon emissions within about 30 years. Although supporters have argued that this would be good for the environment, opponents have warned of more costly energy and the future difficulties it could pose for selling energy out of state. Alternatively, Youngkin promotes a diverse energy sector that would not solely rely on non-carbon emitting sources.

Some Democratic lawmakers, such as Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, think Virginia should join the coalition.

“Hampton Roads is rapidly becoming a national hub for clean energy production and jobs,” McClellan said in a statement. “It’s hard to understand why Governor Youngkin would choose not to participate in a bipartisan group of 11 governors working to grow offshore wind energy. The Youngkin administration should not put right-wing ideology over job creation and affordable, American-made energy. I urge Gov. Youngkin to rethink the decision not to join this wind energy alliance.”

A plan to aggressively expand offshore wind energy has also garnered some opposition from groups, including the free-market Thomas Jefferson Institute.

“The cost and risk of such massive offshore wind development in hurricane-plagued waters make such a move nothing short of insane,” Stephen Haner, a senior fellow for state and local tax policy at the institute, told The Center Square.

“While our governor did not join in the coalition, he went on to issue media statements of support anyway that indicate he is trying to stand in both camps,” Haner added. “Virginia is going down a dangerous path.”

With the Virginia Senate narrowly controlled by Democrats, Youngkin has struggled with some of his energy priorities. Legislation that would have repealed the Clean Economy Act was killed in the Senate and Democratic senators teamed up to block the governor from nominating Andrew Wheeler as the Secretary of Natural Resources. Wheeler previously served as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under former President Donald Trump.