Interior Dept. plans for offshore wind leases draw GOP fire

GOP lawmakers on Tuesday sharply criticized the Interior Department’s move to hold the nation’s first offshore wind lease sale.

Sen. David VitterDavid VitterYou're fired! Why it's time to ditch the Fed's community banker seat Overnight Energy: Trump set to propose sharp cuts to EPA, energy spending Former La. official tapped as lead offshore drilling regulator MORE (La.), the Environment and Public Works Committee’s top Republican, said it amounted to the Obama administration “picking energy industry winners and losers.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Interior announced on Monday that it would hold an auction on July 31 for 164,750 acres off the coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which has the potential to generate 3,400 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 1 million homes.

Interior Secretary Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellOvernight Regulation: Senate panel approves driverless car bill | House bill to change joint-employer rule advances | Treasury to withdraw proposed estate tax rule | Feds delaying Obama methane leak rule Overnight Energy: Dems take on Trump's chemical safety pick GOP chairman probes Zinke’s charter plane use MORE 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. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyCBS series 'Madam Secretary' exploring 'fake news' plot Senate Dems warn against cutting ObamaCare fund to pay for children's health program Trump’s North Korea strategy requires an intervention from Congress MORE (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 AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderObamaCare becomes political weapon for Democrats Senate passes resolution requiring mandatory sexual harassment training Sen. Warren sold out the DNC MORE (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.