The Department of the Interior took its first steps last week toward developing offshore wind energy off the West Coast. “We’re opening the Pacific,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Wednesday at a wind energy conference in Washington.
“Regardless of what you read in the news, I get along with Jerry Brown,” Zinke added, referring to the outgoing Democratic governor of California who has emerged as one of the fiercest critics of the Trump administration’s energy policies. “Some things are not Republican or Democrat. A lot of things are red, white and blue.”
While the Trump administration rolls back rules meant to restrain atmosphere-warming emissions, Brown signed a bill last month committing the state to produce 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free energy sources by 2045.
Now to meet that goal, Brown’s administration is coordinating with the Interior Department to prepare three sections of the outer continental shelf off northern and central California for wind energy development.
On Friday, Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued an official call to companies to gauge interest in leasing about 688,000 acres of the Pacific for offshore wind.
Unlike its onshore cousin, the offshore wind industry has gotten off to a slow start in the United States. The only utility-scale offshore wind project to come online to date is a small five-turbine, 30-megawatt wind farm off of Block Island in the state of Rhode Island. That project was completed in 2016.
But the federal government has also awarded active commercial wind leases across the Eastern Seaboard, off the coasts of Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina.
While most of those lease sales happened under President Obama, the Trump administration has largely picked up from where the previous administration left off. Shortly after the new president took office last year, the Trump administration auctioned off leases for 112,000 acres off the coast of North Carolina. And this December, it will hold bidding for leases for an additional 390,000 acres off of Massachusetts.
In the case of California, geography rather than politics may be the biggest challenge for future offshore wind projects. Unlike those on the East Coast, much of the waters of the California coast are too deep for existing wind turbines, which are grounded to the sea floor. That means developers will need to build turbines that float.
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— Elsewhere at Interior: The political appointee at the Department of Housing and Urban Development who was days ago on track to lead the Interior's watchdog office has resigned from the federal government entirely, The Post’s Lisa Rein, Josh Dawsey and Juliet Eilperin report. Her departure caps a tumultuous week for the Interior Department, which quickly scuttled an arrangement to make that employee, Suzanne Israel Tufts, acting head of its Office of the Inspector General just as it released a new report about Zinke's wife's travel.
— Trump wades into Western water war: Away from ocean, the administration's water policy is a bit more contentious. The president signed a memorandum aiming to slash environmental rules governing freshwater supply in California, Oregon and Washington, and grant Central Valley farmers more access to water needed for irrigation, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The moves comes as a number of House Republicans out west, including Reps. Jeff Denham (Calif.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), are in competitive reelection races, per the Cook Political Report. The Central Valley also encompasses the districts of two powerful House Republicans, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes.
— Elsewhere in Nevada: While making a campaign stop in Nevada this weekend, the president signaled opposition to creating a nuclear waste storage site at Yucca Mountain despite the fact that in both budget plans to Congress his administration designated $120 million to fund the controversial project.
“I think you should do things where people want them to happen, so I would be very inclined to be against it,” Trump said in an interview with KRNV-News 4, based in Reno, as The Post’s Seung Min Kim reports. “We will be looking at it very seriously over the next few weeks, and I agree with the people of Nevada.” The Yucca project is deeply unpopular in state and both candidates in the tight Senate race there, challenger Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) and incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R), oppose completing it.
—...and in Florida: During a debate on Sunday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum prodded both his Republican opponent, Rep. Ron DeSantis, and the state's current governor, Rick Scott, on their positions on renewable energy and climate change. “What Florida voters need to know is that when they elect me governor they are going to have a governor who believes in science, which we haven't had for quite some time in this state," Gillum said.
— Another day, another rule rollback: The Environmental Protection Agency has withdrawn an Obama-era regulation that sought to protect the public from the waste byproducts from uranium mining, Reuters reports. Andrew Wheeler, the agency's acting chief, called the regulation “unnecessary and punishing” on uranium producers.
— No power or potable water in Panama City: Hurricane Michael hit that seaside city in the Florida Panhandle more than a week ago and people’s lives are still upended as they continue without power, running water, reliable cell service or Internet access. "Information about open pharmacies or stores selling generators and batteries is passed on by word of mouth," The Post’s Frances Stead Sellers, Katie Zezima and Kevin Begos report. "The few stores that are open often make cash-only sales, but legal tender is hard to find, too: Most banks remain closed, and ATMs aren’t working."
— "I really wish that Al Gore hadn’t been the messenger": After three years of devastating storms, some farmers in Georgia resistant to political messages from liberals are slowly acknowledging how the worsening weather is leaving them vulnerable, and slowly considering whether climate change has something to do with it, the New York Times reports.
— Where’s all the fall foliage? It's mid-October, and the leaves on many trees across the Mid-Atlantic still are not changing color. An extended stretch of warmth and humidity, along with an extremely rainy summer and early fall, are partly to blame, The Post’s Ian Livingston reports.
— A lingering leak: A 14-year-long oil spill is slowly becoming one of the worst offshore disasters in the country’s history. Since 2004, 300 to 700 barrels of oil have been spilling off the Louisiana coast every day since an oil platform owned by Taylor Energy sank in a mudslide after Hurricane Ivan, The Post’s Darryl Fears reports. “Many of the wells have not been capped, and federal officials estimate that the spill could continue through this century. With no fix in sight, the Taylor offshore spill is threatening to overtake BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster as the largest ever,” Fears reports. But the spill is largely unknown outside Louisiana because, as Fears reports, "of the company’s effort to keep it secret in the hopes of protecting its reputation and proprietary information about its operations, according to a lawsuit that eventually forced the company to reveal its cleanup plan.”
— Virginia greenlights Atlantic Coast pipeline: Virginia state regulators have approved plans to allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to begin construction. Dominion Energy, which is leading a group of companies in building the $6 billion project, called the move a “major step forward” and will now seek final approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in order to start work, The Post’s Gregory S. Schneider reports. Construction has already started in West Virginia and in North Carolina on the pipeline, which will run about 600 miles through the three states.
— Audi's electric plans: The availability of the first electric SUV produced by Audi will be delayed a month longer than expected as a result of a software issue. “Audi staged a global launch of the e-tron in San Francisco last month as part of its effort to expand the market for premium electric vehicles and grab a share from California-based Tesla, which has had the niche largely to itself, ” according to Reuters.
- Brookings Institution holds a panel discussion on “Renewable Energy and India’s energy transition” on Tuesday.
- The World Resources Institute’s Washington Forest Legality Week 2018 begins Tuesday.
- Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler is scheduled to speak at the Shale Insight 2018 conference on Wednesday.
- The Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment holds an event on Wednesday.
- American University hosts an event on “The Private Governance Response to Climate Change” on Wednesday.
- The American Council on Renewable Energy holds a webinar on “US Cities are Driving Demand for Renewables” on Wednesday.
- The Natural Gas Roundtable holds a panel discussion on Wednesday.
— Listen to the eerie song of Antarctica melting: "Research published last week by the American Geophysical Union documents a chaotic, low-frequency hum across the Ross Ice Shelf — a platform the size of France that floats off the coast of West Antarctica," The Post's Avi Selk reports. You can hear that humming yourself in the video below.