BOEM Preparing GOM Wind Draft Environmental Assessment

BOEM Preparing GOM Wind Draft Environmental Assessment
BOEM expects to review at least 16 construction and operations plans of commercial offshore wind energy facilities by 2025.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced Tuesday that it is preparing a draft environmental assessment (EA) to consider the impacts of potential offshore wind leasing in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The area that will be reviewed in the EA, which BOEM outlined is being undertaken as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of permitting 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, includes almost 30 million acres just west of the Mississippi River to the Texas/Mexican border.

This is the same area for which BOEM requested public input when the agency published a Call for Information and Nominations in the Federal Register on Nov. 1, 2021, the organization noted. BOEM said it will narrow the area based on stakeholder and ocean user input before advancing any wind energy areas, which it highlighted are offshore locations that appear most suitable for wind energy development.

BOEM outlined that it is preparing a draft EA on the call area now in order to be able to respond to future needs of the states and opportunities as technology develops for deeper waters and lower wind speeds. The draft EA will consider potential environmental consequences of site characterization activities and site assessment activities associated with the possibility of issuing wind energy leases in the Gulf of Mexico, the organization said.

Should a lease sale advance, prior to approving the construction of any offshore wind energy facility in the Gulf of Mexico, BOEM noted that it will develop an environmental impact statement to analyze the specific environmental consequences of any proposed project, in consultation with Tribes and appropriate federal, state, and local agencies, and with participation by stakeholders and the public.

“The Gulf of Mexico is well positioned to support a transition to a renewable energy future, as much of the infrastructure already exists to support offshore wind development in the region,” BOEM Director Amanda Lefton said in an organization statement.

“BOEM’s environmental assessment is an important step to ensure that any development in the region is done responsibly and in a way that avoids, reduces, or mitigates potential impacts to the ocean and to ocean users,” Lefton added in the statement.

Also on Tuesday, BOEM announced the release of its draft EA on the potential impacts from future commercial leasing and related site characterization and assessment activities within the Humboldt Wind Energy Area (WEA). The Humboldt WEA is approximately 206 square miles that, if developed, could bring up to 1.6 gigawatts of clean energy to the grid, BOEM highlighted.

A U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) statement on November 24, 2021, noted that BOEM expects to review at least 16 construction and operations plans of commercial offshore wind energy facilities by 2025. This would represent more than 19 gigawatts of clean energy for the U.S., the statement outlined. 

The DOI’s BOEM is responsible for America’s offshore energy and mineral resources, according to BOEM’s website. Its mission is to manage development of U.S. Outer Continental Shelf energy and mineral resources in an environmentally and economically responsible way, its site outlines.

BOEM notes on its site that offshore wind is an abundant domestic energy resource that is located close to major coastal load centers. It provides an efficient alternative to long-distance transmission or development of electricity generation in these land-constrained regions, BOEM adds on its site.

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