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.
On March 10, 2017, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) posted four unsolicited applications for wind project leases on the Outer Continental Shelf. PNE Wind U.S.A., Inc. has filed three lease applications, two for offshore Massachusetts and one for offshore New York. Separately, Statoil Wind US LLC filed a lease application for offshore Massachusetts.
The developers’ lease requests, particularly the overlapping requests for offshore Massachusetts, indicate continued interest and growing competition in the U.S. offshore wind sector. The quickening pace of activity in the U.S. offshore wind market, including completion of Deepwater Wind’s Block Island offshore wind farm and today’s auction process for offshore North Carolina, suggests that offshore wind projects may become a more important part of the U.S. power generation portfolio in the coming years. In addition, the unsolicited application for offshore New York and the federal government’s response may provide an early indication as to the Trump Administration’s position on offshore wind development going forward. Increased activity and a new administration in the White House present opportunities to engage on this issue and shape the policies that will govern the federal offshore leasing program for the next four or eight years, or beyond. Read More
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On Monday, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”) has defined three Wind Energy Areas off the North Carolina coast for potential commercial wind energy development.
The three Wind Energy Areas cover approximately 307,590 acres, which is a reduction in the area initially considered by BOEM for commercial scale wind power development. The Wind Energy Areas announced Monday include about 122,405 acres off the coast of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and two areas of 51,595 acres and 133,590 acres off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina. A map of the Wind Energy Areas can be found here.