The US must increase funding to support more rapid deployment of offshore wind to meet national climate and economic goals, 12 US senators and 15 members of the House of Representatives urged in a letter to US Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland.

“Our nation’s offshore wind industry holds tremendous promise to employ tens of thousands of American workers while providing a clean, reliable source of power,” the congress members said in the letter sent last week.

The industry’s benefits would not be realised “without improvements to our siting and permitting processes”, the congressmembers warned.

“We ask that you ensure BOEM [Bureau of Ocean Energy Management] has all the tools and resources it needs to fully deliver on this promise.”

BOEM, the lead regulator of energy development in US coastal waters, falls within the Department of Interior (DoI). The letter was also addressed to BOEM director Elizabeth Klein.

The administration of President Joe Biden has set national goals of 30GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 and 110GW by 2050 as part of its energy transition and decarbonisation goals.

It has made great strides enabling the sector, holding three offshore auctions in 2022 alone, including the record-setting New York Bight tender that saw seven leases holding as much as 10GW of capacity sell for a total of $4.37bn.

Two projects are slated to begin offshore construction starting this spring and BOEM has a queue of over 18GW of project capacity under review and expected to be approved this year.

Red tape in the permitting process has resulted in significant project delays, though, threatening the economics of the industry amid 40-year high inflation and interest rates.

“Delays – whether due to a slow and under-resourced process or adverse court decisions resulting from quick and shoddy reviews – will hamper, and possibly lead to a death knell, for project development,” the lawmakers said.

To facilitate environmental reviews and the permitting process, the Biden administration has requested a funding boost of 25% for BOEM’s renewable energy budget, from $51.7m to $64.5m, as part of its annual budget proposal to Congress.

The congress members urged Haaland to direct the added funding, which has not yet been approved, towards raising BOEM’s headcount for renewable energy permitting and environmental reviews from the current 71 to 106 full time equivalents (FTEs).

They signatories likewise encouraged the bureau to use raising its environmental programme’s headcount from 142 FTEs to 149 to “de-risk offshore wind leases and projects in its pipeline”.

“BOEM’s Renewable Energy and Environmental Program areas must be sufficiently staffed, particularly as their workload increases in an effort to reach the President’s targets,” the congressmember said.

While the US offshore wind continues to enjoy support at the federal level, it has more recently been mired in controversy in states in its Northeast coastal heartland over a series of whale and dolphin strandings that opponents attribute to survey activities off the coasts of New Jersey and in the New York Bight.

State legislators in New Jersey recently introduced a resolution demanding a pause for all industry activities until BOEM and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) can definitely determine the cause of the strandings.

NOAA's fisheries service is highly involved in the environmental review of offshore wind projects and the Biden administration aims to raise its budget by $39m to facilitate permitting.