Ocean Bureau makes final impact finding on Virginia offshore wind leasing

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said in a notice to be published in the Sept. 29 Federal Register that it has issued a Revised Environmental Assessment and also Finding of No Significant Impact for the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP).

The revised EA provides a discussion of potential impacts of the proposed action and an analysis of reasonable alternatives to the proposed action. As a result of the analysis in the revised EA, BOEM issued a FONSI concluding that the reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts associated with the proposed action and alternatives would not significantly impact the quality of the human environment.

In December 2014, BOEM published an EA to consider the reasonably foreseeable environmental consequences associated with the approval of wind energy-related research activities (i.e., construction, operation, maintenance, and eventual decommissioning of the VOWTAP) offshore Virginia as proposed by Virginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (DMME). A Notice of Availability was published in December 2014 to announce the availability of the EA and initiate a 30-day public comment period. On Jan, 2, BOEM published a Federal Register notice extending the comment period. The EA was subsequently revised based on comments received during the comment period and a public information meeting.

The revised EA provides technical clarification, such as the type of aviation safety lights that would be installed on the wind turbines, and the parameters used in the avian collision model. Also the revised EA provides additional information detailing the vegetation and land cover of the onshore impact area associated with cable installation and seasonal prohibitions for North Atlantic right whales.

In addition to the proposed action, the revised EA considers the same alternative turbine locations considered in the December 2014 EA. BOEM’s analysis of the proposed action and alternatives still takes into account standard operating conditions designed to avoid or minimize potential impacts to protected species of marine mammals and sea turtles.

The FONSI concluded that the reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts associated with the proposed action and alternatives, as set forth in the EA, would not significantly impact the quality of the human environment; therefore, the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement is not required.

On March 24, BOEM announced it has executed the first wind energy research lease in U.S. federal waters with the DMME). The DMME has designated the Virginia Electric and Power subsidiary of Dominion Resources (NYSE: D) as the lease operator. Virginia Electric does business in Virginia as Dominion Virginia Power.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.