Federal offshore wind energy regulations

Section 388 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized the Secretary of the Interior to grant leases on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for alternative energy projects, including offshore wind energy projects. The Secretary delegated this authority to the Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), formally the Minerals Management Service (MMS).

On April 29, 2009, BOEM, promulgated the Renewable Energy and Alternate Uses of Existing Facilities on the Outer Continental Shelf (REAU) rule.

The environmental compliance reviews required for the leasing process are conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for major actions including: lease issuance, plan approval (site assessment, construction and operation) and decommissioning activities.

This process includes a review of air quality, water quality, marine mammals, sea turtles, birds, bats, seafloor habitats, physical oceanography, coastal habitats, socioeconomics, cultural resources, fisheries, and multiple use conflicts.

Learn more about the regulatory process for developing offshore wind energy projects.

In addition to NEPA, other environmental consultations include: the Coastal Zone Management Act, Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Essential Fish Habitat), National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106), National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106), Endangered Species Act (Section 7), Clean Air Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 

There are a number of federal agencies in addition to BOEM involved in the offshore wind permitting process including: the U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, and Department of Defense.

AWEA has commented extensively throughout the development of the BOEM program.  AWEA’s full comments are available by logging in as an AWEA member.