Comments sought on Massachusetts offshore sites

Comments are being accepted on possible offshore wind areas in Massachusetts by the federal agency charged with managing potential developments

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is requesting public comment on an environmental assessment (EA) for the Wind Energy Area on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) offshore Massachusetts. The EA was completed last month.

The EA gauges environmental impacts and socioeconomic effects from issuing renewable energy leases within the Wind Energy Area. It also considers environmental impacts associated with potential site assessment activities, including installation and operation of meteorological towers and buoys, in support of leases that may be issued.    

Following the acceptance of comments, BOEM with either issue a Finding of No Significant Impact, or conduct additional analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.  

Earlier this year, BOEM announced a larger Wind Energy Area that drew criticism from the fishing industry for disruption of high-value areas and environmentalists who objected to potential wind development in areas with large concentrations of sea ducks.

BOEM reduced the proposed Wind Energy Area to 742,974 acres from 826,241 acres. The reconfigured area now contains 117 whole lease blocks, down from 132, and 19 partial ones, one less than before. Those blocks have been eliminated from further consideration.

The smaller sections begin 12 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and 13 nautical miles southwest of Nantucket. From its northern boundary, the area extends 33 nautical miles southward to the 60-meter depth. It is 47 nautical miles wide at that point.

Two years ago Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the “Smart from the Start” Atlantic wind energy initiative to accelerate the development of wind energy on the Atlantic OCS.

“Responsible development of abundant wind energy in places like offshore Massachusetts is a key part of the Obama Administration’s all of the above energy strategy,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “At the same time, we must ensure that the potential effects of wind energy development on other resources, such as marine mammals and fishing, are closely analyzed and that appropriate protections are put in place.”     

Comments may be submitted via BOEM’s website at: http://www.boem.gov/About-BOEM/Public-Engagement/Public-Engagement-Opportunities.aspx

BOEM will conduct public information meetings to provide additional opportunities for comment on the EA.

The EA and information on the public information meetings can be found online at http://boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/State-Activities/Massachusetts.aspx.