Regulatory Framework and Guidelines

Overview of BOEM’s Regulatory Framework

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) authorized BOEM to issue leases, easements and rights of way to allow for renewable energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). EPAct provided a general framework for BOEM to follow when authorizing these renewable energy activities. For example, EPAct requires that BOEM coordinate with relevant Federal agencies and affected state and local governments, obtain fair return for leases and grants issued, and ensure that renewable energy development takes place in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

In 2009, the Department of the Interior announced the finalization of regulations governing BOEM’s OCS Renewable Energy Program. These regulations provide a detailed structure to govern how BOEM manages its Renewable Energy Program, ensure that BOEM meets its statutory obligations, and provide both certainty and flexibility for overseeing the nascent offshore renewable energy industry. The updated regulations can be found here:

BOEM's renewable energy program occurs in four distinct phases: planning, leasing, site assessment, and construction and operations. BOEM engages key stakeholders throughout this process, as early communication with interested and potentially affected parties is critical to managing potential conflicts. BOEM’s renewable energy regulations were updated in October 2011 to reflect the Bureau reorganization, and will be updated in the future to incorporate lessons learned and stakeholder feedback.

BOEM prepared a final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) in support of establishing its program for authorizing renewable energy and alternate use activities on the OCS. The final PEIS examines the potential environmental effects of the program on the OCS and identifies policies and best management practices that may be adopted for the program. The Record of Decision for the PEIS can be found by clicking here.

On April 17, 2014, BOEM announced the publication of its Final Rule to extend timing requirements for submitting a Site Assessment Plan and a General Activities Plan pursuant to its renewable energy regulations. Click on the link below to access the Final Rule.


Regulatory Roadmap

This “Regulatory Roadmap” provides guidance on the requirements for acquiring an offshore wind commercial lease on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), pursuant to 30 CFR 585. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is providing this document to clarify the steps and approvals necessary to develop an OCS wind facility.

This document is intended to be used as guidance to developers to outline the requirements of BOEM and other agencies that industry must follow when developing offshore wind projects.  For public guidance outlining the process for overseeing renewable energy projects on the OCS and opportunities for public involvement, please see A Citizen’s Guide.


Regulatory Roadmap

National and Regional Guidelines for Renewable Energy Activities

BOEM has developed a number of national and regional guidelines for renewable energy activities on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). These informal documents are intended to provide lessees, operators and developers with additional information or interpretation of a regulation, OCS standard or regional requirement, clarification for implementation of a special lease stipulation or regional requirement, or updated administrative information (e.g., telephone listings, office address).

In addition, the Northeast Ocean Plan and Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Action Plan (the Plans) describe a series of collaborative actions and best practices related to the use of data, interjurisdictional coordination, and stakeholder engagement that will inform and guide Federal, State, Tribal, and Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council activities under existing authorities. The Plans promote healthy ocean ecosystems and sustainable ocean uses. Consistent and within existing statutory authorities, BOEM will use the Plans to inform and guide its actions and decisions in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic areas. The companion Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portals (Data Portals) present thousands of publicly available maps that represent components of the marine ecosystem and a wide range of human activities. BOEM will consider these data products available from the Data Portals in its decision-making, and encourages lessees and applicants to do so also.

Application and Leasing Guidance

Plan Submittals

  • Information Requirements for a Renewable Energy Site Assessment Plan (SAP) (February 2016). These guidelines clarify and supplement information requirements for SAP submittals. This information is necessary for BOEM to complete analyses under National Environmental Policy Act and other applicable laws and regulations.
  • Information Requirements for a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) (April 2016). These recently updated guidelines (1) provide data requirements to help BOEM analyze potential environmental and socioeconomic effects and operational integrity of proposed construction, operation, and decommissioning activities; (2) provide recommendations for coordinating with owners and operators of telecommunication cables that traverse a BOEM-issued renewable energy lease area; and (3) provide clarification on the site characterization data that the lessee submits with its initial COP to support BOEM’s review of the lessee’s initial and subsequent phases of development of the lease area, when the lessee proposes phased commercial development of the lease area.
  • Draft Design Envelope Guidelines (January 2018) - In order to take advantage of the rapid pace of technological development within the offshore wind industry, BOEM has issued draft guidelines for the use of a “Design Envelope” approach in Construction and Operations Plans (COPs) for offshore wind energy facilities in the United States. This would afford developers a degree of flexibility and allow them to make certain project-design decisions—such as which turbines to use—at the more commercially advantageous time later in the project-development process.
  • Providing Information on Fisheries Social and Economic Conditions for Renewable Energy Development on the Atlantic OCS (October 2015). These guidelines provide guidance to lessees in BOEM Atlantic planning areas to help comply with fishery information requirements in renewable energy plans.
  • Survey Guidelines. Before BOEM will approve the siting of a facility, structure, or cable proposed for a renewable energy project on the OCS, an applicant must submit with its Site Assessment Plan, or General Activities Plan, as applicable. For more information, click here.