Interior Announces Leasing Process For Offshore Wind Projects In Rhode Island, Massachusetts

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The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) have announced the initial steps to develop commercial wind energy on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The process is part of DOI's Smart from the Start offshore wind energy initiative to spur rapid and responsible siting, leasing and construction of new offshore wind projects.

A call for information and nominations, which is available for review in today's Federal Register, invites developers to identify locations within an offshore area in which they seek commercial leases for developing wind projects. BOEMRE is also seeking public comment – through a notice of intent to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) – on environmental issues and reasonable alternatives related to the proposed leasing, site characterization and assessment activities in the offshore area under consideration.

‘We are seeking to determine commercial interest in the identified area and to collect information relevant to mitigating potential impacts to the environment that could result from these activities,’ says BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich. ‘This process will ensure that offshore wind projects are developed in the right way and in the right places.’

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made the announcement in North Kingstown, R.I., as part of his visit to the state with Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Reps. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and David Cicilline, D-R.I., to discuss federal renewable energy and outdoor recreation initiatives.

Four wind energy areas offshore Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia were identified in February, and BOEMRE expects to begin the commercial leasing process in those states as early as 2012. Potential wind energy areas will also be identified soon in additional states, such as Massachusetts and North Carolina, and those areas will be subject to similar EAs as the area identified today, according to the DOI.

The designated location under consideration in today's announcement – the so-called ‘call’ area – is within an area of mutual interest (AMI) that was identified by Rhode Island and Massachusetts in an agreement reached in July 2010.

The call area was subsequently identified through consultation with BOEMRE's Rhode Island and Massachusetts Renewable Energy Task Forces, which include federal, state and tribal government partners, and through the use of information gathered by the state of Rhode Island in its Special Area Management Plan for the AMI. Both BOEMRE and state officials gathered stakeholder input before finalizing the call area.

BOEMRE will consult with other federal agencies, tribal governments and affected states during the EA process and before a final decision is made on leases or site assessment activities. All comments or other information on the EA and the call for information and nominations should be submitted by Oct. 3.

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