As a ninth-generation Texan, I have always loved and respected our beautiful coast, its vibrant economy, and the hard-working men and women whose livelihoods depend on the preservation of these waters.
Since taking the helm of the General Land Office as the first female Land Commissioner in state history, I have also had the immense responsibility of stewarding over 13 million acres of state lands, protecting our state’s open beaches, and providing critical relief to Texans in the aftermath of hurricanes and other major storms.
So, when I see President Joe Biden and his administration blatantly ignoring federal law to fast-track a 550,000-acre wind farm off the coast of Texas, it is my duty to stand up for the real people and their families whom I represent that stand to be devastated by this proposal.
For perspective, just how big is over a half million acres? We’re talking roughly 860 square-miles of ecologically sensitive and economically crucial waterways that are in jeopardy. (RELATED: DAVID BLACKMON: These Two States Couldn’t Be Any More Different Than When It Comes To Energy Policy)
Any project—but especially one of this magnitude—must meet certain standards in federal law before proceeding. Two come quickly into focus.
First, the National Environmental Policy Act requires every project to produce an Environmental Impact Statement, and to date, none has been issued for this massive wind farm.
The reality is that this project poses obvious risks to the environment, as well as both marine and avian species that depend on this ecosystem.
As someone who has traveled all across my great state, I have seen firsthand the wind turbine graveyards of West Texas, where old, decommissioned fan blades sit frozen in time—rusting and decaying. I cannot imagine a nearly 900 square-mile field of abandoned wind turbines off our coast, degrading and leaching harmful substances into our ocean.
In my capacity as land commissioner, I am working hard right now to rid our waters of orphaned oil wells and to bring about policy change, so we never have these issues again. Sadly, I have no faith that the federal government will work nearly as hard to clean up the mess this wind farm will undoubtedly create in these precious waters.
The Sierra Club estimates that up to a million birds per year are already killed by wind turbines, and now the Biden administration plans to place thousands more in the middle of the Central and Mississippi Migratory Bird Flyway over the Gulf where birds have less perception and ability to avoid the turbines like they do above land.
I have also spoken to numerous coastal fishermen who have real concerns about the effects on marine life from the magnetic fields and impulses from the large electrical transmission lines that will have to be laid along the ocean floor from these turbines.
This is a clear case of Green New Deal “feel good-ism” trumping legitimate environmental and conservation concerns, but you won’t find sober voices on the political left calling this out and demanding that Biden follow the law and study the real impact of this project.
Second, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act prohibits any wind project from interfering with other “reasonable” uses of the oceanic area, which will clearly being ignored here.
Two clear examples jump off the page to me: commercial fishing and shipping.
Texas commercial fishermen stand to lose a huge swath of navigable waters containing rich fisheries. This project could absolutely devastate this vital industry, robbing families of high-paying jobs, ending family businesses that span generations, and ultimately making the entire United States more dependent on seafood imports from places like China.
This project also represents a threat to our state’s most vital port, the Port of Houston, as it will likely severely hamper navigation and disrupt shipping lanes to send and receive goods. Some have placed the potential damage at over $800 billion in commerce per year.
Less goods in the Port means less workers earning good wages to move those goods. Less goods in the Port also means less options for Texas families at the store and higher prices for the options that are available. Crippling one of our most important economic engines isn’t good for Texas and will only make the impact from inflation more damaging to hardworking families.
I am committed to doing everything in my power as land commissioner to thwart this proposed boondoggle. That starts with raising the alarms that the Biden administration is ignoring numerous, “inconvenient” federal laws and holding them to account for their malfeasance.
While the law may not matter in Washington D.C., it matters in Texas. And we’re not going to sacrifice our coast, our economy, and the lives and livelihoods of our people at the altar of “feel good” headlines.
Dawn Buckingham is a Texas physician and former state senator who was elected Land Commissioner of Texas in 2022.
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