Legislation passed in the US House of Representatives last Thursday July 14th could pose an existential threat to the nascent industry in the US, according to offshore wind developers. The US is already several years behind Europe in the development of offshore wind, but the developers say that this measure, which was folded into a defence authorization bill, would impose new nationality requirements for crew members working on offshore energy projects, from oil rigs to wind installations.
Crews would have to be citizens or permanent residents of the US, or be from the same country under which their vessel is flagged.
Developers said that this could delay the development of renewable projects along the US East Coast, because there were an insufficient number of trained American mariners to do the specialized work needed to connect hundreds of offshore turbines to the grid.
Heather Zichal, head of the American Clean Power Association, said that “this provision is a gut punch to offshore wind projects. We can’t keep saying we support clean energy and clean energy jobs but then pass laws that undermine them.”
Oil industry representatives observed that the measure would also slow down investment and disrupt conventional offshore energy operations, including drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Supporters of the measure say the change is needed to prevent American mariners from being excluded from the slowly emerging industry because foreign ships will rely on workers from low-wage countries. Developers say that the rule would severely restrict the industry from emerging at all, hurting US consumers.
The defence legislation containing the measure is generally considered a “must-pass” bill on Capitol Hill, but it still needs to pass in the Senate.