Last week, I noted that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that it had identified an area for commercial wind energy leasing offshore Massachusetts. This week, BOEM announced the availability of an Environmental Assessment to support commercial leases in an adjoining parcel offshore both Massachusetts and Rhode Island. (Couldn’t find a photo with good resolution. The figure is obviously in the EA, but you can find a stand-alone map here.)
The scope of the EA is limited. Separate analysis, almost certainly to require preparation of environmental impact statements, will be required prior to the construction of any wind farms. The EA addresses only the potential environmental impacts from issuance of leases and approval of site assessment plans, or SAPs, by each lessee. BOEM characterized the potential consequences from lease issuance and SAP approval as including:
1) Lease issuance (including reasonably foreseeable consequences associated with shallow hazards, geological, geotechnical, and archaeological resource surveys).
2) SAP approval (including reasonably foreseeable consequences associated with the installation of a meteorological tower(s) and/or meteorological buoys).
BOEM will take comments for 30 days from the Federal Register publication. Obviously BOEM cannot prejudge the conclusion, but the expectation is certainly that BOEM will issue a finding of no significant impact, or FONSI, meaning that no EIS will be required. That will pave the way for issuance of leases by the end of the year.