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Coast Guard bill's offshore drama

May 16, 2024
Illustration of the Capitol dome

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Renewables companies are pushing to kill an obscure provision of the Coast Guard authorization that they contend could stall offshore wind development.

Why it matters: Industry believes that the domestic ship crewing requirements in the bill — which passed this week — threaten access to the specialized ships it needs at a time when it's already facing delays and cancellations.

  • The language would essentially require offshore vessel crews to either be American or match the nationality of the ship's flag.

Driving the news: In a letter obtained by Axios, the American Clean Power Association told Hill leadership that the provision "threatens to materially disrupt the offshore wind industry."

  • "These mandates risk jeopardizing the creation of thousands of good-paying American jobs, the development of more than 40 U.S.-flagged offshore wind vessels, and billions of dollars' worth of domestic manufacturing investments," wrote JC Sandberg, ACP's chief advocacy officer.
  • An issue for offshore wind — and oil — companies is that the unique ships they require don't really exist at scale in the U.S. right now. So the provision could make it tough to access those vessels and get them crewed.

The other side: Reps. Garret Graves and John Garamendi have been trying to get this language onto the Coast Guard or defense authorization bills for a few years.

  • It's supported by marine vessel operators, who argue it would simply close a loophole that allows foreign-flagged vessels "a massive cost advantage."
  • Graves told Nick that allowing Russian and Chinese mariners into our waters doesn't make sense.
  • Ted Cruz — the top Republican on Commerce, the Senate jurisdictional committee — has opposed it in previous years, forming a strange bedfellow alliance on the issue with Ed Markey and other renewables supporters.

Between the lines: The American Petroleum Institute has opposed the provision, and lobbying disclosure forms show oil companies are bringing this up behind closed doors, too.

  • But the fact that lawmakers from Louisiana — a massive offshore oil producer — support this "tells you that there's something there maybe that needs to be addressed," Graves said.

What we're watching: Graves is optimistic he'll be successful in conference this time, but we could see a compromise emerge.

  • "We have heard the concerns [from industry], and we have offered to sit down and work with them. We've talked about grandfathering in — things along those lines," he said.
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