A key member of Congress joined Pep. William Keating (D-Massachusetts) and Mayor Jon Mitchell Friday for a tour of New Bedford Harbor and a discussion on the city's role in offshore wind development.

Congressman Alan Lowenthal of California chairs the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources and is bullish on offshore wind. "This is the future of the nation's energy supply. This is not some kind of a passing whim, this is where the nation is moving, and we need successful models and that's what we're doing here."

Lowenthal's committee is considering a bill filed by Keating to provide grants to colleges, universities and labor unions to train workers for the offshore wind industry.

While the bill is expected to make it easily through the House, it could be a tougher sell in the Senate.

Keating says he expects supporters may have to make some concessions, but the Massachusetts Democrat feels strongly that the bill will make it through the Senate and on to the President's desk. "This is a fuel for new jobs and for business development and secondary investments too. People will see what's happening in New Bedford and it will help in the expansion of offshore wind development across the country."

Lowenthal says he's cognizant that much work still needs to be done, especially in bringing fishermen on board with offshore wind development. Mayor Mitchell believes communication is the key is bringing wind developers and commercial fishermen together.

"I've maintained that the two industries can co-exist," said Mitchell. "They must communicate clearly with one another, and make known one another's interests. I think the interests overlap far more than a lot of folks fully appreciate."

After the tour, both Keating and Lowenthal met privately with local fishermen to hear their concerns. Lowenthal will visit Block Island on Saturday to learn more about offshore wind development off Rhode Island.

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