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Amid federal stalling on climate action, the push for California offshore wind grows

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
Offshore wind turbines like these ones are planned for the waters off Morro Bay.

Momentum is building to get offshore wind farms developed along the California coast in the waters off San Luis Obispo and Humboldt Counties. One estimate from the National Renewable Laboratory said offshore wind in the U.S. could someday provide double the current generation of the country’s entire electric grid.

The SLO County city of Morro Bay is one of the major planned sites, but Sara Guiltinan with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management pointed out during one of the agency’s public hearings this year that any development there is still a long way off.

“From where we are today, it’s still several years before you see steel in the water," she said.

Still, there’s a strong push to get this process done faster to get the future turbines producing clean energy as soon as possible.

With that in mind, an advocacy organization called the Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) held a virtual press conference today to talk about offshore wind’s potential and some of the regulatory hurdles it's facing.

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Screenshot, Elected Officials to Protect America
Morro Bay Mayor John Headding spokes at the virtual press conference held by Elected Officials to Protect America on June 19.

The organization has been especially critical of Senator Joe Manchin’s apparent refusal to support climate provisions in the Democrats’ proposed tax budget, saying he wants to get a handle on inflation before committing to federal climate action on that scale.

Morro Bay Mayor John Headding spoke at the press conference and reiterated his support for offshore wind as a way to produce renewable energy and stimulate the economy. But he also said the federal process for getting this done has not been easy.

“The principal issue for us has been working with the Department of Defense (DOD), which has very strategic issues off the shores of California," he said.

But Headding also said he’s optimistic that the city and other stakeholders will be able to streamline that process with the DOD and other agencies to move the process along.

"We’re hoping that further mitigations in working with them will allow for greater development, and even more rapid development, of the future and the industry as they open up the ‘floodgates’ of renewable energy in California.”

Some SLO County residents have expressed concerns about development of offshore wind in Morro Bay during virtual hearings held by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, including questions of what its effects could be on fish populations, the local workforce and the ocean environment itself. However, environmentalists generally support offshore wind as a way to produce clean, renewable energy.

Benjamin Purper came to KCBX in May of 2021 from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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