In response to the BOEM Wind Energy Areas in the Gulf of Mexico, SLEC has submitted the following comments to the federal docket.
September 2, 2022
Amanda Lefton, Director
Tershara Matthews, Chief, Office of Emerging Programs
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
U.S. Department of the Interior
Re: Comments on Draft Gulf of Mexico Wind Energy Areas and Draft Environmental
BOEM-2022-0036-0001 – Draft Gulf of Mexico Wind Energy Areas
Dear Ms. Lefton and Ms. Matthews:
South Louisiana Economic Council (SLEC) appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the draft Wind Energy Areas (“WEA”) for offshore wind leasing in the Gulf of Mexico (“GoM”). Formed in 1983, SLEC is a regional economic development organization representing a four-parish region in South Louisiana, which encompasses Assumption, Lafourche, St. Mary and Terrebonne Parishes. Our region, known as the Bayou Region, is the hub for the Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas industry service companies and coastal ports. In fact, several service companies in South Louisiana are currently providing goods and services for offshore wind projects along the U.S. East coast and we foresee these companies and others continuing to be an integral part of the wind industry’s value chain for many years to come. As thousands of jobs in the Bayou Region are dependent on the offshore oil and gas industry, we anticipate and look forward to additional employment opportunities with the development of offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico.
SLEC supports the federal government’s efforts to build new offshore energy resources in federal waters including offshore wind leasing and development on the Outer Continental Shelf (“OCS”) in the Gulf of Mexico. Four coastal ports are located within the Bayou Region, which includes Port Fourchon, Port of Terrebonne, Port of Morgan City and the Port of West St. Mary, each playing a critical role in offshore energy activity. Port Fourchon is the largest port servicing the current offshore oil and gas industry servicing 100% of the deep-water oil and gas activity in the Gulf of Mexico and is well-positioned and prepared to service the offshore wind industry. The Port of Terrebonne is strategically located on the Houma Navigation Canal (HNC) with unlimited height restrictions to the Gulf of Mexico along with being one half mile of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) and home to marine construction and repair facilities as well as fabrication yards servicing the offshore industry. The Port of Morgan City and the Port of West St. Mary are also strategically located with access to the Gulf of Mexico for servicing the offshore energy industry.
Offshore wind in the GoM presents an attractive near-term opportunity for projects that can benefit from the robust and experienced workforce and infrastructure in place in this sector of the region. The development of offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico offers an advantage with overlapping resources and skill sets currently established by the existing offshore oil and gas industry. The already evolved industry and infrastructure of the Bayou Region, including ports, roads, highly specialized vessels, skilled mariners and associated supply chains is vital to the success of offshore wind.
The Bayou Region is home to hundreds of service companies founded decades ago by the development of offshore oil and natural gas in the GoM. These companies, including shipbuilders, marine vessels, manufacturers, engineers, fabrication facilities, among others have the expertise and innovative fortitude to support the development of the offshore wind industry in the GoM. The existing supply chain in Louisiana, and workforce has the necessary capabilities to support the pre-construction, construction, long-term O&M and decommissioning of offshore windfarms. Furthermore, the Bayou Region is home to academic excellence and workforce training resources with Nicholls State University and Fletcher Technical Community College.
We urge BOEM to recognize and acknowledge the long history of co-existing uses in the Gulf of Mexico and proceed in such a manner to preserve an all-of-the above approach to meet America’s vast energy needs. The Gulf of Mexico has proven to be a region where various ocean industries and diverse stakeholder uses effectively co-exist. This region supports offshore oil and gas development, military training, recreational and commercial fishing, and tourism. These sectors have proven to work compatibly together. BOEM’s pursuit of offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico should operate in partnership with oil and gas and with other OCS users in the region such as the emerging carbon capture and storage (“CCS”) sector.
We also urge BOEM to allow the intermingling of renewable energy with the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas production in the GoM is critical to meeting our nation’s energy demands as it supplies nearly 16% of our nation’s energy needs and should remain in place for the foreseeable future as part of a smart and strategic energy transition. The fact that offshore wind could provide power to offshore oil and gas operations should be permissible. The existing GoM energy production has the lowest carbon emissions compared to anywhere in the world and there is an opportunity to reduce emissions further with the integration of renewable power on offshore oil and gas platforms.
SLEC supports BOEM’s two WEAs, the Galveston WEA and Lake Charles WEA; however, SLEC respectfully requests BOEM to consider including another WEA in closer proximity to the central GoM. The addition, a WEA in the central GoM would allow wind developers the opportunity to consider its feasibility and would be strategically located to existing energy infrastructure, a key component to building out an offshore windfarm.
In sum, SLEC supports offshore wind energy in the GoM as a smart and strategic energy transition allowing for an all-of-the-above energy strategy by including existing offshore oil and gas development with a potential to provide tremendous economic benefits to the Bayou Region.
Thank you again for the opportunity to provide comments.
South Louisiana Economic Council