An effort to position Louisiana at the forefront of wind energy projects along the Gulf Coast gained significant momentum Tuesday when the Louisiana House of Representatives approved a bill that would provide larger leases for such investments. Despite concerns from a few lawmakers that traditional oil and gas would take a back seat to greener alternatives, House Bill 165 was approved with a 91-10 vote.
Republican Reps. Jerome “Zee” Zeringue of Houma and Joe Orgeron of Larose co-authored the proposal that would allow up to 25,000 acres for a wind energy lease in state coastal waters, compared with a 5,000-acre limit for oil and gas leases. Between 500 and 1,000 acres are needed for each giant turbine, which is far more space that oil platforms require, Zeringue said.
Opponents of the proposal included Rep. Danny McCormick, a Republican from Oil City who told House colleagues he has spent his entire life working in the oil and gas industry. He has authored a resolution to remove solar and wind farms from one of the state’s most lucrative incentives, the Industrial Tax Exemption Program. McCormick said workers in the petroleum energy field are under appreciated.
“We need to sent them a message that they are necessary and important and we’ll protect them,” he said.
Zeringue and Orgeron, who both represent areas heavily dependent on offshore energy exploration for jobs, said wind energy projects will rely on much of the same workforce and expertise needed to built oil and gas wells in the Gulf.
“It’s not an either-or situation,” Orgeron told House members. “It’s not a binary choice.”
Most Gulf wind energy projects are envisioned for deeper, federal waters, beyond 3 miles off the coast. Orgeron has said House Bill 165 would pave the way for exploratory pilot projects along Louisiana’s less populated coastline.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has set a goal of generating 5,000 megawatts of electricity from wind by 2035 as part of his climate plan.
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