June 06 -- The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced this week that it has issued a final environmental assessment (EA) on potential impacts from offshore wind leasing on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM).
BOEM, which highlighted that the latest action is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of permitting 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030, described the move as a key milestone towards the potential first ever offshore wind lease sale in the GOM. The organization stated that, based on analysis in the EA, it issued a finding of no significant impacts to environmental resources.
Going forward, BOEM noted that, if it decides to proceed with the sale, it will publish a final sale notice at least 30 days ahead of the sale, which it said 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 said it will develop Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) to analyze the specific environmental consequences of the projects before deciding whether to approve them. The EIS will be prepared in consultation with Tribes and appropriate government agencies and informed by input provided by key stakeholders, ocean users, and the public, BOEM said.
“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,” BOEM Director Liz Klein said in an organization 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 added.
Commenting on BOEM’s completed environmental review, National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) President Erik Milito said the organization’s announcement “is an important step towards the build-out of the U.S. offshore wind sector”.
“The Gulf of Mexico has long been renowned for its position as a premier offshore energy hub, leading through low carbon barrels of oil, and this achievement underscores its history of innovation and leadership,” Milito added in the statement, which was sent to Rigzone.
“New offshore wind lease sales - along with the resumption of a long-term oil and gas leasing program - offers a foundation for the continued success of the Gulf of Mexico’s remarkable and irreplaceable energy portfolio,” Milito continued.
In the statement, Milito said the synergy between offshore oil and gas and offshore wind is “nothing short of remarkable”.
“NOIA member companies have played a pivotal role in developing and constructing offshore oil and gas projects, as well as offshore wind projects,” he said.
“With the introduction of offshore wind in the Gulf Coast, numerous local companies will now have the opportunity to participate in the construction of new wind projects closer to home,” he added.
“The American offshore energy sector benefits for Americans of all walks of life and this relationship will strengthen with new offshore wind opportunities. We are excited for the offshore wind opportunity in the Gulf of Mexico,” Milito went on to state.
BOEM noted that its latest announcement was made possible by the work of Gulf of Mexico Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, which is a collaboration between Tribal, Federal, state, and local government agencies. BOEM said it will continue to meet with the task force as the process moves forward.
On October 31, 2022, BOEM announced that it had finalized two Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) in the Gulf of Mexico, which it said at the time had the potential to produce enough clean wind energy to power nearly three million homes. The first WEA is located approximately 24 nautical miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas, and totals 508,265 acres, and the second is located approximately 56 nm off the coast of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and totals 174,275 acres, BOEM highlighted at the time.
On February 22, 2023, the DOI proposed the first ever offshore wind lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. In an organization statement at the time, the DOI noted that the announcement was part of the administration’s latest actions to expand offshore wind opportunities to more regions of the country.