Commercial Wind Lease Issuance and Site Assessment Activities Offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has prepared a revised environmental assessment (EA) considering the reasonably foreseeable environmental and socioeconomic impacts of issuing renewable energy leases and subsequent site characterization activities (geophysical, geotechnical, archaeological, and biological surveys needed to develop specific project proposals on those leases) in an identified Wind Energy Area (WEA) on the OCS offshore Rhode Island (RI) and Massachusetts (MA). The revised EA also considers the reasonably foreseeable impacts associated with the approval of site assessment activities (including the installation and operation of meteorological towers and buoys) on the leases that may be issued in the identified WEA.

 

As a result of the analysis in the revised EA, BOEM issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). The FONSI concluded that the reasonably foreseeable impacts associated with the preferred alternative would not significantly impact the environment; therefore, the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) is not required.

 

    The purpose of this notice is to inform the public of the availability of the revised EA and FONSI, which can be accessed online at: http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/Smart-from-the-Start/Index.aspx.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michelle Morin, BOEM Office of Renewable Energy Programs, 381 Elden Street, HM 1328, Herndon, Virginia 20170-4817, (703) 787-1340 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On July 3, 2012, BOEM published a Notice of 

Availability (NOA) for an EA, which requested public comments on 

alternatives considered in the 2012 EA, as well as measures (e.g., 

limitations on activities based on technology, distance from shore, or 

timing) that would mitigate impacts to environmental resources and 

socioeconomic conditions that could result from leasing, site 

characterization, and site assessment in and around the Call Area (76 

FR 51391). The Call Area is located within the Area of Mutual Interest, 

as described in a Memorandum of Understanding between the Governors of 

RI and MA dated July 2010.

    The 2012 EA considered the entire WEA for leasing and approval of 

site assessment plans (SAPs) as the proposed action under the National 

Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321-4370f). Comments 

received in response to the NOA can be viewed at: http://www.regulations.gov by searching for Docket ID BOEM-2012-0048.

    Based on comments received and the results of required 

consultations (e.g., Endangered Species Act), BOEM has revised the 2012 

EA. BOEM will use the revised EA to inform decisions to issue leases in 

the WEA and to subsequently approve SAPs on those leases. BOEM may 

issue one or more commercial wind energy leases in the WEA. The 

competitive lease process is set forth at 30 CFR 585.210-585.225, and 

the noncompetitive process is set forth at 30 CFR 585.230-585.232 (as 

amended by a rulemaking effective as of June 15, 2011).

    A commercial lease, whether issued through a competitive or non-

competitive process, gives the lessee the exclusive right to 

subsequently seek BOEM approval for the development of the leasehold. 

The lease does not grant the lessee the right to construct any 

facilities; rather, the lease grants the right to use the leased area 

to develop its plans, which BOEM must approve before the lessee may 

proceed to the next stage of the process. See 30 CFR 585.600 and 

585.601. In the event that a particular lease is issued, and the lessee 

subsequently submits a SAP, BOEM would then determine whether the 

revised EA adequately considers the impacts of the activities proposed 

in the lessee's SAP. If BOEM determines that the analysis in the 

revised EA adequately considers these impacts, then no further analysis 

under NEPA would be required before BOEM could approve a SAP. If, on 

the other hand, BOEM determines that the analysis in this revised EA is 

inadequate for that purpose, BOEM would prepare additional NEPA 

analysis before it could approve the SAP.

 

    If a lessee is prepared to propose a wind energy generation 

facility on its lease, it would submit a construction and operations 

plan (COP). BOEM then would prepare a separate site- and project-

specific NEPA analysis of the proposed project. This analysis would 

likely take the form of an EIS and would provide the public and Federal 

officials with comprehensive information regarding the reasonably 

foreseeable environmental and socioeconomic impacts of the proposed 

project. This analysis would inform BOEM's decision to approve, approve 

with modification, or disapprove a lessee's COP pursuant to 30 CFR 

585.628. This NEPA process also would provide additional opportunities 

for public involvement pursuant to NEPA and the White House Council on 

Environmental Quality's regulations at 40 CFR parts 1500-1508.

 

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