Thirty-three members of the House and Senate – all but one of them from states with expressed interest in offshore wind – called on Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to direct a “significant” portion of a $150 million environmental review fund to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
With 11 coastal states aiming to deploy 77 GW of offshore wind, BOEM faces a rapidly expanding pipeline of projects in need of site and permit reviews, according to a letter sent to Haaland on March 15.
Delays in permitting “whether due to a slow and under-resourced process or adverse court decisions resulting from quick and shoddy reviews – will hamper and possibly lead to a death knell for project development,” the letter says.
Funds dedicated to environmental reviews by the Inflation Reduction Act should help support an expansion of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, according to the legislators.
For fiscal year 2023, BOEM’s renewable energy program has requested $51.7 million to support 106 full-time positions, and its environmental program, which oversees environmental studies and assessments, requested $86.4 million to support 149 staffers, according to the letter. Both requests represent increases over the bureau’s 2021 budget, but that isn’t enough, the lawmakers said.
“In order to improve its ability to de-risk offshore wind leases and projects in its pipeline, BOEM will need more resources,” the lawmakers said in support of using some IRA funding for permitting.
“We cannot afford for bureaucracy to be a barrier on our path toward climate safety,” the letter reads.
According to the letter, the money for the requested expansion could come from a $150 million fund created by the Inflation Reduction Act to support environmental review processes at the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, BOEM, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.
Thirty-two of the 33 legislators who signed the letter represent states with offshore wind development or supply chains goals. The outlier, Sen. Martin Heinrich, is a Democrat from New Mexico, which is landlocked. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, and Rep. Paul Tonko, D-New York, led the petition.