Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Virginia declines to join federal-state offshore wind partnership

One of two wind turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach that comprise Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project. (Sarah Vogelsong/ Virginia Mercury)

RICHMOND — A partnership announced last week between the federal government and 11 East Coast states that aims to speed up offshore wind development has one noticeable absence: Virginia. 

A press release from President Joe Biden’s administration describes the Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership as a joint effort between the White House national climate adviser, four cabinet secretaries and the governors of “several East Coast states who are early leaders on offshore wind development.” 

The 11 states listed are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. 

Those jurisdictions cover the entire span of the nation’s eastern coast from Maine to North Carolina with the exception of Virginia. 

Eight of the governors involved in the partnership are Democrats. Three — Larry Hogan of Maryland, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire — are Republicans. 

The absence of Virginia and Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin from the initiative is particularly surprising given the state’s efforts in recent years to market its Hampton Roads region as a key emerging wind hub.

Virginia notched an early win last October when Siemens Gamesa announced it would build the first U.S. offshore wind turbine blade facility at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, investing more than $200 million and creating over 300 jobs. 

Richmond-headquartered Dominion Energy also operates one of the only two offshore wind installations currently generating power in the United States. Its 12 megawatt pilot off the coast of Virginia Beach was the first to be built in federal waters, and its planned 2,600 megawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project is expected to be the largest wind farm in the nation.

Asked why Virginia is not involved in the new partnership, Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in an email that “the commonwealth is already a leader in the offshore wind industry, and the Youngkin administration is focused on the economic development opportunities presented by this emerging sector in a way that is consistent with promoting jobs for Virginia and its right-to-work philosophy.” 

Porter said the administration “has participated in calls with the White House on offshore wind projects and continues to engage on this topic.” 

“The governor supports and is fully committed to Virginia’s current offshore wind project, and we will continue to support any future offshore wind development that meets Virginia’s economic needs and protects ratepayers from high energy costs,” she wrote. 

She did not respond to a follow-up question about whether the partnership comes with labor commitments that Youngkin believes would go against Virginia’s “right-to-work philosophy.” 

Michael Ricci, a spokesperson for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, said in an email that the partnership has not involved any formal agreements or memoranda of understanding. He characterized it as a “workgroup organized by the administration to foster better federal-state coordination on offshore wind.” 

The Biden administration has emphasized labor involvement in its messaging on the initiative, inviting labor leaders to participate in the partnership launch at the White House and highlighting developers’ use of project agreements and union workers

State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, called on Youngkin to reconsider his decision to not join the partnership, saying in a release that “it’s hard to understand why Governor Youngkin would choose not to participate in a bipartisan group of 11 governors working to grow offshore wind energy.” 

“The Youngkin administration should not put right-wing ideology over job creation and affordable, American-made energy,” she said.

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Robert Zullo for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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