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Sequester will hurt gains in renewable energy, Salazar says

Gains made in the last four years to build dozens of renewable energy projects on public lands and create a regulatory framework for offshore wind production in the United States could be stymied by the large federal budget cuts scheduled to begin Friday as a result of the so-called sequester, outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said Tuesday.

Speaking before a crowd of about 300 gathered at the opening of the Offshore Wind Power USA conference in Boston, Salazar said the effect of the cuts would be akin to an “almost 10 percent cut across the Department of Interior for this fiscal year” -- but shoehorned into the next seven months.

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“It’s almost the equivalent amount of money as what we have to power the entire Bureau of Land Management and all its functions,” Salazar said.

Even as he outlined his concerns about the coming cuts and the setbacks that they would deal to the nation’s clean technology industry, Salazar lauded the strides in alternative energy production that his department has helped promote, including the development of offshore wind energy areas like the one that has been designated off the Massachusetts and Rhode Island coasts.

“We have worked with the states on ... uses of the ocean in those particular areas, so we have already identified where the sweet spots are for wind energy projects in the Atlantic,” he said. “That means that as developers move forward in their significant interest along the Atlantic Coast to propose projects, they’ll know where those projects should go.”

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To ensure that such efforts continue, Salazar said, policy makers need to give renewable energy industry more financial certainty -- through strong incentives and a national energy policy.

“A system should work to give certainty to those of you who are putting your capital at risk,” he said.

Erin Ailworth can be reached at eailworth@globe.com. Follow her on twitter @ailworth.
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