GOP lawmakers on Tuesday sharply criticized the Interior Department’s move to hold the nation’s first offshore wind lease sale.
Sen. David Vitter (La.), the Environment and Public Works Committee’s top Republican, said it amounted to the Obama administration “picking energy industry winners and losers.”
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell called the pending lease sale — which has drawn interest from nine firms — “history in the making.” She said the July bidding could be a bellwether for future offshore wind lease sales, though she noted it might take time for a commercial industry to develop because the projects are expensive and difficult to finance.
Democrats applauded the move as a strong step toward developing alternative energy sources.
“Offshore wind is a win for American jobs, for American energy security, and for our environment, and it will start off the coast of New England. With lease sales in federal waters, offshore wind will also be a boon for U.S. taxpayers,” Rep. Edward Markey (Mass.), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a Tuesday statement.
For Republicans, the milestone is more of a boondoggle.
Vitter’s office circulated a letter on Tuesday that the Louisiana lawmaker and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) sent to former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last November.
The letter presses Republican concerns about President Obama’s offshore energy policies, as the GOP contends he keeps too much of the coast off limits to drillers.
Republicans want to open drilling in some parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans — areas that the president’s five-year offshore drilling plan doesn’t include.
“While they do everything they can to advantage renewable energy production, they ignore the benefits that traditional energy provides,” the November letter said.