Texas, with about 367 miles of coastline, is expected to benefit from the output of offshore wind projects proposed by the Biden administration. (zentilia/Adobe Stock)

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By Roz Brown

March 27, 2023   

Offshore wind development is coming to Texas under the Biden administration’s plan to grow America’s clean-energy economy, and union members want the jobs to include proper safety and worker protections.

The federal government is seeking comments about which areas near Galveston to consider for the first-ever offshore wind lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. The project is part of the administration’s promise to establish 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.

Luis Estrada, a plumbers apprentice and a member of Plumbers Union Local 68 in Houston, said stringent labor and equity standards need to be in place before hiring begins.

“We have every capability to make these jobs strong, family-sustaining jobs,” Estrada pointed out. “But there’s a lot of anti-worker laws here in Texas, and it makes Texas the most dangerous state in America to work.”

Estrada was one of several union members who traveled to Washington, D.C., to deliver some 200 messages to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management about the unique challenges faced by Texas construction workers.

The U.S. Interior Department said projects proposed for Louisiana and Texas have the potential to power more than a million homes with clean energy.

PJ Shipman, an electrical apprentice and a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 716, said Texas’ “right-to-work” laws should not limit living wage requirements and workers’ compensation.

“To be able to set a standard for the clean-energy boom that we really believe is about to happen would be amazing,” Shipman contended. “To set the standard in Texas where, to everyone’s knowledge, is ‘right to work.’ “

Because they do not require valuable land space, offshore wind projects have risen in popularity.

Estrada added Texas union members want the emerging industry to succeed, but not at the expense of workers.

“The unions are going to be the only people who can keep up with the demand of these jobs,” Estrada asserted. “But we just want the language to be in the leases; that these jobs are going to protect Texas communities and Texas workers.”

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is accepting comments about the Texas wind proposals through April 25.