Labor, Environment and Environmental Justice Coalition Praises California’s Agreement With Federal Government to Advance Offshore Wind Development

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Coalition says agreement to open up West Coast waters to offshore wind development will cut pollution, create jobs, and accelerate progress towards 100% clean energy

Environment California Research and Policy Center

Sacramento, CA—A California-based coalition of environmental, labor and environmental justice organizations expressed strong support for an agreement struck by the state of California and the federal government to open up California coastal waters to offshore wind development for the first time.  The agreement, which was announced today by Governor Gavin Newsom, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, and White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, is a key step that will help spur job growth, cut deadly air pollution in frontline communities, and support the state’s progress towards 100% clean energy. 

“Offshore wind must play a critical role in California’s path to 100% clean energy. In a state where the devastating consequences of climate change are already unfolding all around us, we don’t have moment to lose in investing in the clean energy technologies that will help California avoid the worst impacts of global warming, and today’s announcement will help to jump start this future,” said Laura Deehan, state director for Environment California. 

The agreement will open up an area of roughly 400 square miles off of the Central Coast northwest of Morro Bay to offshore wind development, and identifies a second location, west of Humboldt Bay for possible future offshore wind development. Together, the two areas could generate an estimated 4.6 gigawatts of clean, pollution-free electricity in the next decade — enough to power 1.6 million homes. An initial lease sale on the waters northwest of Morro Bay could come as early as 2022.

Environmental justice advocates say that the historic agreement could help deliver key air quality benefits, especially in frontline communities, where the majority of California’s gas power plants reside. Seventy-eight percent of California’s gas power plants are located in communities identified by CalEPA as having the state’s highest burden of poverty and cumulative environmental health burdens, according to a report from Brightline Defense. 

“Investing in offshore wind can deliver badly-needed air quality relief to Californians in frontline communities, who breathe dangerous air quality day-in and day-out. We know that achieving 100 percent clean energy is key to eliminating deadly health impacts from fossil fuel pollution, and offshore wind development is key to getting there,” said Eddie Ahn, executive director at Brightline Defense.

According to an analysis earlier this year from the California Energy Commission, all of the most cost-effective pathways to meeting California’s 100% clean energy target require at least 10 gigawatts of offshore wind energy. Despite the crucial role that the pollution-free energy resource must play in the state’s energy goals, California has yet to break ground on its first offshore wind farm. The agreement today could help the state break ground faster — and unlock key job opportunities in manufacturing and construction. 

Officials projects that meeting the Biden administration’s national target of developing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030 could create 77,000 jobs and spur $12 billion in capital investments. By midcentury, the American Jobs project projects that building out California’s offshore wind capacity could create more than 17,500 good-paying jobs

“Investing in offshore wind will create thousands of career-track jobs in manufacturing and construction in communities that currently lack these opportunities. California’s agreement today with the federal government is a key step to delivering these job opportunities, and comes at a key moment as our state builds back from this economic downturn. Now, it’s time for the state of California to move full-speed ahead toward development,” said Jeff Hunerlach, district representative at Operating Engineers Humboldt County.