Yesterday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a notice of availability for the Environmental Assessment it prepared in connection with the issuance of leases for wind energy development off the coast of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. The EA includes a Finding of No Significant Impact, or FONSI. In other words, BOEM concluded that the issuance of leases does not require a full blown Environmental Impact Report.
The EA also addresses the individual site assessment plans, or SAPs, that will have to be performed by each leaseholder. While BOEM retains the flexibility to determine whether the implementation of the SAPs is covered by the EA, there is certainly the suggestion that SAPs may be not require separate NEPA analysis.
The FONSI is of course not a full green light for wind development off the Mid-Atlantic coast. Once BOEM starts awarding leases, each lease-holder would ultimately have to prepare a Construction and Operations Plan, which would be subject to NEPA review and it would be quite surprising if individual wind projects were not obligated to prepare full EISs before proceeding to construction.
Even so, establishing this process, and obviating the need for EISs prior to issuing leases and performing at least some SAPs, can only be helpful in getting siting of wind energy in this area off the ground.