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Presidential hopeful Warren pledges to accelerate US offshore wind development

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has proposed a new ocean policy plan that would include speeding up permitting for offshore wind projects.

"As we rapidly transition our economy to 100% clean energy, we must prioritize offshore wind and wave energy," Warren wrote in the plan she posted on her website Dec. 10.

Offshore wind development under the Trump administration has hit some speedbumps, and Trump himself has spoken critically about that technology on multiple occasions. As for the permitting process, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in August delayed issuance of a final environmental impact statement for the proposed 800-MW Vineyard Offshore Wind Project off Cape Cod, Mass.

Warren pledged that, if she wins the White House, she will streamline and fast-track permitting for offshore wind, "including making sure projects are sited with care based on environmental impact assessments."

The U.S. Department of Energy in 2016 estimated that U.S. offshore wind has a technical resource potential of more than 2,000 GW of capacity, or 7,200 TWh of generation per year.

Warren also said she will make sure local communities receive a share of the benefits of offshore wind development including by setting labor, environmental and transparency standards before work begins. Moreover, any additional federal subsidies or tax benefits for large offshore wind projects would be contingent on developers reaching community benefits agreements that would include requirements for prevailing wages and collective bargaining rights, Warren said.

While Warren pledged to ensure fishing and conservation groups, as well as coastal communities, "have a seat at the table in developing any new project," she also vowed to not let complaints about the visual and aesthetic impacts of offshore wind provide a basis for denying permits.

"The climate crisis is too urgent to let the ultra-wealthy complain about wind turbines getting in the way of their ocean views," Warren said.

As for actions that would require legislative action, Warren indicated she would advocate for long-term extensions to renewable production tax credits and investment tax credits and fight to fully fund the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Interior's Bureau of Safety & Environmental Enforcement "so they can have the resources they need to deploy offshore clean energy resources at the speed the science demands."

Warren also said she would work to electrify shipping ports, including equipment and shore power, and work with the International Maritime Organization to set aggressive emissions standards for bunker fuels, "so that shipping fuels are cleaner at home and abroad."