NEW ORLEANS — Federal regulars are one step closer to authorizing the first-ever offshore wind energy lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico having concluded that such development activity will have no significant impacts on the environment.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued its opinion on May 30, after completing its final environmental assessment of potential impacts from offshore wind leasing on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico.
The assessment stemmed from the work of the Gulf of Mexico Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, a collaboration between tribal, Federal, state, and local government agencies aimed at using the best available science and indigenous knowledge to minimize conflicts among ocean uses.
Officials at the bureau said the task force will continue to meet and provide its input as the lease process moves forward.
“The completion of our environmental review is an important step forward to advance clean energy development in a responsible manner while promoting economic vitality and well-paying jobs in the Gulf of Mexico region,” said BOEM Director Liz Klein in a written statement.
“We will continue to work closely with our task force members, ocean users and others to ensure that any development in the region is done responsibly and in a way that avoids, reduces, or mitigates potential impacts to ocean users and the marine environment,” Klein said.
In October 2022, BOEM identified two “wind energy areas” off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana that it said would be the most suitable areas for offshore wind development in the Gulf.
Together they comprise about 682,000 acres.
The WEAs represent offshore areas that appear to be the most suitable for wind energy development. On Feb. 22, 2023, BOEM announced its proposal for the first offshore wind lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico for areas within the WEAs.
BOEM prepared the EA on the entire 30-million-acre Call Area to allow greater flexibility for possible identification of additional WEAs and to provide NEPA coverage in the event that non-competitive and research leases were proposed in the Call Area.
The EA considered potential environmental consequences of site characterization activities (i.e., biological, archeological, geological, and 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.
For more information on the final EA and FONSI, see: https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/gulf-mexico-activities.
If BOEM decides to proceed with the sale, the bureau will publish a Final Sale Notice at least 30 days ahead of the sale, which will announce the time and date of the lease sale and the companies qualified to participate in it.
For any proposed offshore wind projects, BOEM will develop Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) to analyze the specific environmental consequences of the projects before deciding whether to approve them. The EISs will be prepared in consultation with tribes and appropriate government agencies and informed by input provided by key stakeholders, ocean users, and the public.
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