Last week, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the availability of its draft environmental review of wind energy areas offshore the U.S. Central Atlantic region.
BOEM’s Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) considers potential environmental consequences of site characterization activities (e.g., geophysical, geological, and archaeological surveys) and site assessment activities (e.g., installation of meteorological buoys) associated with issuing wind energy leases in the Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) offshore Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. The draft EA also considers project easements and grants associated with each potential lease, including subsea cable corridors. The public comment period for the draft EA runs through Feb. 12, 2024.
“BOEM will continue to work closely with our government partners, key stakeholders, and the public as we consider proposed offshore wind activities in the Central Atlantic,” said BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein. “Our overarching goal is to ensure any development is done in a manner that avoids or reduces potential impacts to other ocean uses and the marine environment.”
On Aug. 1, 2023, BOEM published a notice in the Federal Register announcing its intent to prepare an EA on potential impacts from offshore wind leasing in the Central Atlantic WEAs. As part of its scoping process, BOEM sought comments on the issues and alternatives that the EA should consider and received over 100 comments, which can be found at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. BOEM-2023-0034.
On Dec. 11, the Department of the Interior announced a proposed offshore wind lease sale in the Central Atlantic WEAs. The proposal includes two areas for auction: WEA A-2 offshore the States of Delaware and Maryland, and WEA C-1 offshore the Commonwealth of Virginia. Together, these areas have the potential to support enough offshore wind to power over 2.2 million homes with clean energy, BOEM said. BOEM partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science to develop a comprehensive, ecosystem-based ocean planning model that assisted in the selection of the final WEAs.
The proposed sale does not include WEA B-1, located offshore Ocean City, Md., due to the need for further evaluation of potential conflicts with other existing ocean uses.
The draft EA analyzes all three areas, including WEA B-1, as the analysis may be helpful to inform additional potential lease sales, which could occur in the Central Atlantic region as soon as 2025. More information about this proposal and how to submit public comments on the proposed sale notice can be found on BOEM’s website.
How to Submit Comments
BOEM published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of its draft EA on Jan. 12, 2024, initiating a 30-day public comment period that ends at 11:59 pm ET on Feb. 12, 2024. During the public comment period, BOEM will hold two virtual public meetings. Registration is required. The virtual public meetings will be held:
To comment on the draft EA, go to www.regulations.gov and search for BOEM-2024-0004. After considering all public comments, BOEM will publish a final EA.