Posted on January 18, 2022
As part of the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of permitting 30 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) today announced the release of its draft Environmental Assessment (EA) on the potential impacts from future commercial leasing and related site characterization and assessment activities within the Humboldt Wind Energy Area (WEA) off the coast of California.
The Humboldt WEA is approximately 206 square miles that, if developed, could bring up to 1.6 GW of clean energy to the grid, enough to power approximately 560,000 homes.
The draft EA considers potential environmental impacts and socioeconomic effects from issuing offshore wind energy leases and related site characterization and assessment activities within the Humboldt WEA. Site characterization activities include geophysical, geotechnical, archaeological, and biological surveys needed to develop specific project proposals on those leases. Site assessment activities could include installation and operation of meteorological buoys in support of leases that may be issued.
“BOEM is requesting public comments on the adequacy of our environmental analysis and of the measures designed to avoid or reduce potential environmental impacts,” said BOEM’s Pacific Office regional director Doug Boren. “BOEM will consider such comments before determining whether to issue a finding of no significant impact or to conduct additional analyses under the National Environmental Policy Act.”
Before approving the construction of any offshore wind energy facility on a potential future lease in the Humboldt WEA, BOEM will develop an Environmental Impact Statement to analyze the specific environmental consequences of constructing and operating such a facility, in consultation with Tribes and appropriate federal, state, and local agencies, and with participation by stakeholders and the public.
BOEM is also requesting public comments related to potential impacts to historic properties from commercial leasing and site characterization and assessment activities in the Humboldt WEA. This is part of BOEM’s National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 Programmatic Agreement with the State of California covering wind energy development offshore that state.
BOEM also announced it is preparing a draft 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 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. BOEM will narrow the area based on stakeholder and ocean user input before advancing any Wind Energy Areas, which are offshore locations that appear most suitable for wind energy development.
“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,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “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.”
BOEM 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 (i.e., biological, archeological and geological, as well as geophysical surveys and core samples) and site assessment activities (i.e., installation of meteorological buoys) associated with the possibility of issuing wind energy leases in the Gulf of Mexico.
Should a lease sale advance, prior to approving the construction of any offshore wind energy facility in the Gulf of Mexico, BOEM 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.
This announcement represents the culmination of a collaboration between local, state, federal, and Tribal governments to utilize the best available science and traditional knowledge to minimize conflicts between ocean uses. These stakeholders comprise the Gulf of Mexico Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, which first met last June and is planning to meet again in early 2022. BOEM will continue to meet with the task force as the process moves forward.