In support of the Biden administration’s goal of permitting 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”) announced that it has been begun preparing its draft environmental assessment to evaluate the potential impacts of offshore wind development in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
The area to be assessed spans almost 30 million acres from west of the Mississippi River to the border with Mexico and is the same area for which BOEM issued a call for information from the public on November 1, 2021. The areas selected for development will be narrowed based on stakeholder and ocean user input and the suitability of discreet areas for wind development. BOEM’s preparation of a draft environmental assessment for the entire call area now lays the foundation for future development in areas that may not be presently viable based on current technology.
BOEM’s draft environmental assessment is only a single step in the process. Should any lease sale occur and prior to the approval of the construction of any offshore wind energy facility, BOEM will also prepare an Environmental Impact Statement specific to the proposed project and further consult with all stakeholders on the impact of the proposed project.
BOEM noted that the Gulf of Mexico is uniquely positioned for the development of offshore wind because much of the necessary infrastructure already exists. The Gulf Region is also home to many of the companies, contractors, and workforce that has supported offshore energy development over the past several decades; making it an optimal location for implementation and development of the US offshore wind industry. Furthermore, the Gulf of Mexico has long enjoyed an accepted synergy between offshore oil and gas and commercial fishing industries, who have so far pushed back on wind projects on the East Coast. While we can expect some similar resistance to the introduction of yet another infrastructure intensive industry in the Gulf by both fisheries and oil and gas, it is expected that the Gulf Region – the traditional leader in US energy production – will eventually be more accepting to offshore wind than other parts of the country.
At present, BOEM is seeking comments from stakeholders to be included in the draft environmental assessment. For more information, including how to submit comments to the environmental assessment, visit https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/gulf-mexico-activities.