D.C. Circuit Affirms That Offshore Wind Lease Does Not Trigger NEPA Review

By: J. Timothy HobbsAnkur K. TohanRobert M. SmithDavid L. WochnerNatalie J. Reid

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) does not need to conduct full environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when granting an offshore wind farm lease, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed. The decision followed a lawsuit by commercial fishing organizations and seaside municipalities who claimed that BOEM violated NEPA and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) when it auctioned an offshore lease to Equinor (formerly Statoil) without performing an environmental review of the anticipated windfarm project. The decision puts to rest the question of whether a mere lease sale may trigger extensive environmental review under NEPA, potentially streamlining the initial lease acquisition process, but also requiring the investment of significant funds before developers have cleared environmental review.

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