The Deval Patrick, D-Mass., administration has requested that the federal government remove from further consideration for offshore wind energy development certain areas identified by commercial fishermen, fisheries scientists and other maritime users as vital to the commonwealth's fishing industry.
The administration's request would remove from the federal leasing process approximately half of a 3,000 square-mile area in federal waters south of Massachusetts originally identified by federal officials for potential wind power development. Among the territory exempted under the administration's proposal are shipping lanes and waters on the eastern side of the original lease area that are important to the Massachusetts fishing industry.
‘This proposal will enable Massachusetts to lead the country in a burgeoning offshore wind industry, while also protecting our vibrant commercial fishing industry that is so vital to our economy,’ says Patrick.
In December 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) issued a request for interest (RFI) for commercial leasing for wind power on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Massachusetts. The issuance of the RFI was the first step in a multi-year federal leasing process for offshore wind energy development and included a map identifying approximately 3,000 square miles of federal waters off the Massachusetts coast for consideration.
In late February, the Patrick-Murray administration, members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, and Massachusetts fishermen requested that BOEMRE extend the public comment period for the RFI. This extension was granted and enabled the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to convene a Fisheries Working Group on Offshore Renewable Energy to address issues between commercial fishing and offshore wind power development. A Habitat Working Group was also convened to examine ecosystem issues relating to the potential lease area.
Reps. Barney Frank, Bill Keating, John Tierney and Edward Markey, and New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang support the administration's recommendation to exclude from further consideration for offshore wind energy development waters on the eastern portion of the RFI area, and to further study existing fisheries and fish habitat throughout the RFI area.
The commonwealth's proposal to change the RFI area was submitted yesterday in accordance with BOEMRE's extended public comment deadline of April 18.