The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced plans Wednesday to conduct a regional environmental review of six areas leased for offshore wind development in the New York Bight in February. The leases were issued in what has been the agency’s largest offshore wind auction to date.
The lease areas offshore New York and New Jersey have an estimated 5,600 to 7,000 MW of total development potential. Ahead of project-specific analyses, the agency, part of the Department of the Interior, must conduct an programmatic environmental impact statement. After the PEIS is finalized, BOEM will conduct site-specific analyses for project compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act based on the leaseholders’ construction and operation plans.
This will be the first regional analysis for offshore wind that will contain multiple lease areas, as more developers are interested in advancing in the permitting process more quickly than current timelines. The process will result in a final environmental impact statement subject to public comment around June 2024, according to BOEM’s draft notice of intent.
The New York Bight has a lot of potential for offshore wind, industry experts tell Utility Dive, given high deployment goals from the surrounding states and existing plans to build up offshore wind manufacturing in the region.
“This new regional approach is an evolution of our process to help ensure timely decisions that advance offshore wind while protecting the ocean environment and marine life,” BOEM Director Amanda Lefton said in a statement. “In addition, this approach ensures both a comprehensive view of the New York Bight area and improved process efficiencies for future project reviews.”
The agency is increasingly evaluating regions to auction multiple site leases, as the Biden administration aims to deploy 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030. After the record $4.3 billion auction in the New York Bight, the agency auctioned two lease areas off the coast of the Carolinas and is in the process of evaluating six other areas in the Atlantic Ocean for offshore wind leasing. This is in addition to its work on auctioning areas on the Pacific Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.
The agency expects to publish a notice of intent to begin the regional assessment on July 15, kicking off a 30-day public comment period. BOEM will hold three virtual hearings between late July and early August. The programmatic environmental impact statement will analyze potential impacts of wind development in the region, along with mitigation measures and actions to avoid or monitor any impacts.