Amidst the gush of news at the end of 2020, it was hard to keep up. So, many likely missed the news that the U.S. Congress passed a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year 2021. This 4,500-page policy covers all things defense-related and receives broad bipartisan support each year. One change in this year’s budget is that Congress extended the Jones Act to cover offshore wind farms, much like offshore oil rigs and gas facilities.
10 years coming
The new wind farm provision was based on a bill sponsored by former Louisiana Congressman Jeff Landry, who first proposed these changes in 2011. The bill passed the House but never even made it to the Senate Floor for a vote.
“Offshore wind development will play a critical role in our nation’s transition to a clean energy economy,” said Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), who introduced the amended language in the current NDAA. “Demand for offshore wind development in U.S. waters remains strong, and Congress has now ensured this burgeoning industry abides by federal laws and regulations affording critical labor, antitrust, and environmental protections, including the Jones Act.”
The NDAA was initially vetoed (for the first time in six decades) by former president Trump, who voiced concerns about liability protections to tech businesses. However, Congress overrode the veto on January 1, 2021, with supermajorities in the House and Senate.
The impact on workers
This change institutes clarification regarding wind farms. Notably, it helps ensure that foreign businesses will not undercut U.S. companies and equipment. It also incentivizes investors, thus creating jobs and work. With jobs in mind, the Jones Act coverage ensures the protection of U.S. workers in this emerging industry by requiring employers to provide reasonably safe workplace conditions.