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U.S. D.O.I. says mid-Atlantic wind leases environmentally safe




The United States Department of the Interior said opening up the mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf area for renewable energy projects will not have significant negative impacts - a finding allowing the agency to move forward with issuing leases for the said resource-rich areas.


Last week, the agency said a comprehensive environmental assessment of the resource found that there would be no significant environmental and socioeconomic impacts from issuing wind energy leases in designated areas off the mid-Atlantic coast.


The environmental review was done by the department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management headed by Tommy P. Beaudreau, observing provisions stated in the National Environmental Policy Act.


This finding now allows the Interior Department to issue wind energy lease sales off Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware.


According to the agency, it prepared an environmental assessment of the potential impacts of issuing renewable energy leases and possible consequences associated with site characterization activities.


The latter can refer to geophysical, geotechnical, archeological and biological surveys in sites off Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware, places said to be wind energy-rich.


"The environmental assessment also considered potential environmental impacts associated with site assessment activities, such as the installation and operation of meteorological towers and buoys on leases that may be issued in these areas," the department's statement read.


Special lease form


Alongside the release of the environmental assessment, the department made available a lease form, reportedly the first of its kind, that will streamline the issuance of renewable energy leases on the Outer Continental Shelf.


This form (available here) will provide access rights to renewable energy resources in the said areas.


The ocean energy management bureau also published Calls for Information and Nominations for Maryland and Virginia to solicit lease nominations from industry and request public comments regarding site conditions, resources and multiple uses of the wind energy areas.


"Today's announcement opens up the 'sweet spots' off the mid-Atlantic coast for development of our nation's remarkable offshore wind resource," said deputy secretary of the interior David J. Hayes.


The environmental assessment is part of the Smart from the Start "wind energy initiative" began in November, 2010 for the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf by the Interior Department to facilitate the siting, leasing and construction of new projects (See EcoSeed's story here).– Eric Dorente

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