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Governor John Bel Edwards has identified offshore wind energy as a feature component of his recently announced renewable energy initiative for the Gulf of Mexico. The Governor announced the initiative at the inaugural meeting of his Climate Initiative Task Force.

In August, Governor Edwards created the 23-member Climate Initiative Task Force via an executive order. The Task Force’s duties include recommending strategies, policies and incentives aimed to curb growth of greenhouse gas emissions in Louisiana. At the Task Force’s inaugural meeting on Monday, November 9th, Governor Edwards spoke on the need to address the effects of climate change in Louisiana.

One topic of discussion at the meeting was offshore energy production. The Governor noted that he has reached out to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”) to create a task force of federal, state and local officials tasked with mapping out a plan for renewable energy production in the Gulf of Mexico. As the nation’s number one source of renewable energy, offshore wind energy will be crucial to this initiative.

Governor Edwards recognized the emerging offshore wind energy industry in Louisiana as well as Louisiana’s offshore oil and gas industry’s significant contributions to the early development of U.S. offshore wind energy.  The goal of the BOEM’s task force will be to develop wind farms offshore Louisiana.

There are many benefits which could come from a wind farm off the coast of Louisiana. It has been estimated that a 600-megawatt wind farm in the Gulf of Mexico would produce 4,400 jobs and $445 million in economic output during the construction phase, and 150 permanent jobs and $14 million in annual spending during operations. Additionally, wind energy would be a natural extension of Louisiana’s already existing energy industry and would bolster the state’s image in the industry.

Interest in wind energy production off the Louisiana coast will likely continue to increase in the coming years, as studies from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimate that the Gulf of Mexico could produce 10 percent of U.S. wind energy.

BOEM is the primary permitting authority for wind energy facilities in federal waters.  BOEM’s regulatory scheme is set forth at 30 C.F.R. Part 585.  In addition, wind projects must comply with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting requirements under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.  Finally, wind projects are subject to Coastal Zone Management Act requirements concerning consistency with state coastal management programs.

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