The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will be announcing in the Jan. 23 Federal Register the availability of an Environmental Assessment (EA) for commercial wind leasing on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf offshore of North Carolina.
The EA considers the potential impacts of the proposed action and analyzes reasonable alternatives. This Notice of Availability (NOA) also serves to announce the beginning of the public comment period on the EA, which is to run for 30 days beyond Jan. 23.
The bureau has prepared this EA to determine whether the issuance of leases and approval of Site Assessment Plans (SAPs) within three Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) offshore North Carolina would lead to reasonably foreseeable significant impacts on the environment and, thus, whether an environmental impact statement (EIS) should be prepared before leases are issued.The regulations also require that a lessee provide the results of shallow hazard, geological, geotechnical, biological, and archaeological surveys with its SAP or Construction and Operation Plan (COP). BOEM refers to these surveys as “site characterization” activities.
Although BOEM does not issue permits for these site characterization activities, BOEM regulations require that a lessee include the results ofthese surveys in its application for SAP or COP approval. Should a particular area be leased, and should the lessee subsequently submit a SAP, BOEM would then determine whether this EA adequately considers the environmental consequences of the activities proposed in the lessee’s SAP. If BOEM determines that the analysis in this EA adequately considers these consequences, then no further National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis would be required before the SAP is approved. If, on the other hand, BOEM determines that the analysis in the EA is inadequate for that purpose, BOEM would prepare an additional NEPA analysis before approving the SAP.
If and when a lessee is prepared to propose wind energy generation on its lease, it will submit a COP. If a COP is submitted, BOEM would prepare a project-specific NEPA analysis. This would most likely take the form of an EIS and would provide additional opportunities for public involvement pursuant to NEPA and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations. BOEM will use the EIS document to evaluate the reasonably foreseeable environmental consequences associated with the proposed COP activities.
The purpose of the proposed action is to issue leases and approve SAPs to provide for the responsible development of wind energy resources within three WEAs offshore North Carolina. The need for BOEM issuance of leases and approval of SAPs is to adequately assess wind ande nvironmental resources of the WEA to determine if areas within the WEA are suitable for, and could support, commercial-scale wind energy production.