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House Republicans push bills that would hinder wind energy production

The Union of Concerned Scientists calls wind ‘one of the cleanest and most sustainable ways to generate electricity.’

By Josh Israel - March 29, 2023
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Wind Energy
Wind turbines stand in fields near Palm Springs, Calif. Wednesday, March 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

House Republicans plan to hold a vote this week on the Lower Energy Costs Act, a package of proposals to boost fossil fuel drilling and roll back environmental regulations, which they claim will promote an “all-of-the-above energy policy,” meaning tapping every renewable and nonrenewable source available. But several amendments being pushed by GOP lawmakers would undermine the development of the production of wind energy, a power source experts say must be a major component of efforts to avert catastrophic climate change.

The GOP package would cut taxes on natural gas; reduce environmental safety regulations; and make it easier for oil and gas companies to drill on public lands, build pipelines, and export their products. It is designated as H.R. 1, a number typically reserved for a bill representing a top priority for the majority party.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said in a statement posted to his official website:

H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, focuses on two main priorities: increasing the production and export of American energy and reducing the regulatory burdens that make it harder to build American infrastructure and grow our economy. … To lower costs for Americans and grow our economy, we need to get the federal government out of the way. The Lower Energy Costs Act will fast-track American energy production, and includes comprehensive permitting reforms that will speed construction for everything from pipelines to transmission to water infrastructure.

Before the vote on the bill itself, the House will vote on amendments to it, including three proposals by anti-wind energy Republicans to put the federal government in the way of wind energy development.

Florida Rep. Anna Paulina Luna will offer two proposed amendments to the bill.

One of Luna’s amendments would require the Government Accountability Office to produce and publish a study of the impacts of wind, “including the adverse effects of wind energy on military readiness, marine environment, and tourism,” before the administration could move forward with wind farm leases in Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Area, the South Atlantic Planning Area, and the Straits of Florida Planning Area.

Luna’s second amendment would put Congress on record as warning “that major components of wind infrastructure, including turbines, are imported in large quantities from other countries including countries that are national security threats, such as the Government of the People’s Republic of China.”

New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith’s amendment would compel the Government Accountability Office to carry out a “study of sufficiency of the environmental review process for offshore wind.”

New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who once backed wind energy and even previously served as co-chair of the House’s Offshore Wind Caucus, proposed changes that would similarly force the nonpartisan research agency “to publish a report on all potential adverse effects of wind energy development in the North Atlantic Planning Area.”

These amendments would force the government to devote time and energy to creating reports telling only one side of the story. And Luna’s amendment would also halt progress until that research is done.

All three lawmakers have taken a significant amount of campaign cash from nonrenewable energy interests. Luna took $33,369 in political action committee donations from oil and gas during her 2022 campaign; Van Drew received $32,000 from the oil and gas sector and $22,500 from electric utilities for his 2020 and 2022 races; and Smith has accepted $2,000 from oil and gas PACs and $17,000 from electric companies since his 2012 campaign.

According to a 2013 explainer published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, wind power creates some environmental concerns that need to be mitigated, such as making sure turbines are built in places that disrupt land use as little as possible.

But the group noted: “Harnessing power from the wind is one of the cleanest and most sustainable ways to generate electricity as it produces no toxic pollution or global warming emissions. Wind is also abundant, inexhaustible, and affordable, which makes it a viable and large-scale alternative to fossil fuels.”

The Sierra Club also endorses wind farming as a safe and climate-friendly energy source: “Wind energy plays an important role in fighting climate change and weaning us off fossil fuels. In 2018, wind energy avoided 201 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. It is also one of the lowest-priced sources of energy available today.”

The Republican Party has long rejected calls to curb climate change and reduce fossil fuel use, frequently framing their energy policies as an “all-of-the-above” approach.

The party’s 2016 platform, left unchanged in 2020, states: “Together, the people of America’s energy sector provide us with power that is clean, affordable, secure, and abundant. Their work can guarantee the nation’s energy security for centuries to come if, instead of erecting roadblocks, government facilitates the creation of an all-of-the-above energy strategy.”

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer told Politico on March 6 that this was the strategy behind the GOP’s energy package. “Everybody will have a little different perspective,” the Minnesota Republican said. “But when you want to attack inflation in this country, it starts with an all-of-the-above energy policy, and I think that will be the more unifying thing.”

On March 9, Van Drew hosted a House field hearing in Wildwood, New Jersey, on the dangers of offshore wind development.

Local environmental leaders criticized the hearing and Van Drew’s position on the subject.

Ed Potosnak, executive director for the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement that climate change is the real threat to the state’s residents.

“As Co-chair of the Offshore Wind caucus in the House of Representatives, Van Drew was once regarded as the ‘most progressive Republican’ on climate and environmental issues,” Potosnak noted. “Now, he’s a shill for the fossil fuel industry, flip-flopping on his promises to support New Jersey’s growing clean energy economy and pushing lies implying that offshore wind development is killing marine life.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has already proclaimed the bill dead on arrival should it reach the Senate. President Joe Biden’s office said that he would veto it if it reached his desk.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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