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.
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.