Obama Administration Initiates Leasing Process for Commercial Wind Development Offshore Massachusetts

02-03-2012 WASHINGTON

Echoing President Obama’s State of the Union call for an “all of the above” energy strategy, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, together with the commonwealth of Massachusetts, announced today that it is moving forward with the next step to consider commercial wind energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) offshore Massachusetts. BOEM is publishing a Call for Information and Nominations to identify locations within an offshore area in which there is industry interest to seek commercial leases for developing wind projects. BOEM is also seeking public comment about site conditions and other existing uses of the identified area that would be relevant to BOEM’s potential leasing and development authorization process. 

“BOEM recognizes the proactive steps that the commonwealth has taken to encourage environmentally sound offshore wind energy development and we are working together to refine a suitable Wind Energy Area off the coast of Massachusetts,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “We will follow marine spatial planning principles as we continue to gather information and coordinate with other OCS users throughout the leasing process.” 

“Massachusetts is in the midst of a clean energy revolution, making investments in renewable energy projects across the state,” said Massachusetts Energy Undersecretary Barbara Kates-Garnick. “These projects stabilize long-term energy costs, create home-grown sources of energy and create local jobs. We’re thrilled to have the support of our federal partners in these efforts and look forward to future collaboration.” 

The Call Area under consideration is located off the coast of Massachusetts beginning approximately 12 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and 13 nautical miles southwest of Nantucket. From its northern boundary, the Call Area extends 33 nautical miles southward to the 60 meter depth contour and has an east/west extent of approximately 47 nautical miles. The Call Area is approximately 826,241 acres and contains 132 whole OCS lease blocks as well as 19 partial blocks.

The Call Area was identified by BOEM after considering comments received in response to a Request for Interest encompassing a larger area that was issued in December 2010 to launch BOEM’s commercial wind leasing efforts on the OCS off Massachusetts. Following consultation with stakeholders through BOEM’s intergovernmental Massachusetts renewable energy task force — which includes federal, state and tribal government partners — BOEM announced that it would reduce the planning area off Massachusetts by about 50 percent and proceed to issue a Call for the reduced area. Further consultation with the task force led to this Call announced today.    

In addition, BOEM is seeking public comment — through a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Assessment — on the environmental and socioeconomic issues to be considered as well as alternatives and mitigation measures. The purpose of the EA is to inform decision makers and determine if there are significant impacts associated with issuing leases and approving site assessment activities in the potential Wind Energy Areas. In coordination with this National Environmental Policy Act review, BOEM will conduct a review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and requests public comments regarding the identification of historic properties or potential effects to historic properties through the Notice of Intent.  

BOEM plans to conduct information sessions in Massachusetts during the comment period to explain the commercial leasing process and provide additional opportunities for public input on the scope of the Environmental Assessment. Details will be posted on BOEM’s website:  http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/State-Activities/Massachusetts.aspx.   

Today’s announcement is the latest step in the Department of Interior “Smart from the Start” offshore wind initiative to facilitate efficient and environmentally responsible renewable energy development by improving coordination with state, local and federal partners, identifying and refining priority Wind Energy Areas for potential development and conducting early environmental reviews. 

All comments or other information on the Call and Environmental Assessment must be submitted within 45 days of publication in the Federal Register, in one of the following ways: 

Today’s Federal Register notices are available for public inspection at: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/public-inspection/index.html.  

A map of the Call area is available at:

http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/State-Activities/Massachusetts.aspx.