Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that leases for offshore wind development off of Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware would be issued by the end of 2012 after an environmental review resulted in a finding of no significant environmental impact. The announcement follows President Obama’s call for additional clean energy development in his State of the Union address last week.
“When it comes to powering our nation’s homes, businesses and economy, we need to take an all-of-the-above approach to safely and responsibly developing our domestic energy resources,” Secretary Salazar said. “Offshore wind holds incredible potential for our country, and we’re moving full-steam ahead to accelerate the siting, leasing and construction of new projects.”
Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) first had to conduct an environmental assessment of the proposed lease sites. This recently completed assessment found that there would be no significant environmental and socioeconomic impacts from issuing wind energy leases in the previously designated Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) lease areas off the mid-Atlantic Coast.
According to OWW contributor and wind energy expert Todd Griset, the finding of no significant impact (FONSI) will allow BOEM to move forward with the leasing process without preparing a more intensive and time consuming environmental impact statement. However, the assessment does not permit construction or cover any specific projects.
BOEM has received several responses to a Request for Interest issued in 2010 for lease areas off of Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia, and lease blocks in these areas will be awarded based on an auction held sometime this year. BOEM received only one response to the RFI for the lease blocks off of Delaware, and will issue a non-competitive lease to that developer sometime this year, presuming that the developer is still interested.
Overall, the announcement was met with excitement by industry observers.
“Today’s announcement gives us hope that the United States will now be able to develop our enormous offshore wind resources more quickly – and deliver the enormous economic, environmental and public health benefits that come with them.” said Kit Kennedy, Clean Energy Counsel for the NRDC.
“This is a critical step in the establishment of the U.S. offshore wind industry, which will create thousands of high skilled jobs and allow for billions of dollars in investment.” added Jim Lanard, President of the Offshore Wind Development Coalition.