Feds move closer to offshore wind in North Carolina
By Frank TursiCoastal Review Online
federal government last week took the next significant step toward
developing commercial wind energy off the N.C. coast by releasing an environmental assessment
that supports the potential lease sale for more than 300,000 acres in
three areas, one off the northern Outer Banks and two near Wilmington.
are really pleased that the administration is continuing down the
offshore wind path,” said Nancy Sopko, an ocean advocate with Oceana,
a nonprofit group that advocates for world’s oceans and supports
offshore wind development. “This is a big step forward, especially for
North Carolina because of its abundant wind.”
assessment, the first issued for a Southeast state, is another step in
the long process of developing commercial wind farms off North
Carolina, which studies have indicated has the best offshore wind
resources on the East Coast.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management,
or BOEM, prepared the 300-page assessment. The agency, part of the U.S.
Department of Interior, regulates energy development in federal waters
beyond the states’ three-mile territorial limits.
challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate
change, and today’s announcement marks yet another milestone in the
President’s strategy to develop renewable energy, create American jobs
and strengthen the nation’s energy security future,” Sally Jewell, the
Interior secretary, said yesterday in a press release accompanying the
study. “In close coordination with our partners in North Carolina, we
are moving forward to determine what places make sense to harness the
enormous wind energy potential off the Atlantic seaboard.”
The study assesses the environmental effects of commercial wind farms in three areas off the coast:
West includes about 51,600 acres that begin about 10 nautical miles
from shore and extend roughly 12.3 nautical miles in an east/west
East includes about 133,600 acres that begin 15 nautical miles from
shore and extend 18 nautical miles in a southeasterly direction.
Hawk includes about 122,400 acres that begin 24 nautical miles from
shore and extend seaward 13.5 nautical miles in a northeasterly
The areas are
all that’s left of the millions of offshore acres that BOEM and a task
force of federal officials and state and local leaders began studying
three years ago for wind development. Most areas were eliminated to
protect important viewsheds, sensitive habitats and resources or to
minimize conflicts with other activities such as military operations,
shipping and fishing.
BOEM looked at the potential
environmental effects associated only with issuing leases and approving
site assessment activities in the three areas. Anyone leasing blocks
for a commercial wind farm must then submit a construction and
operations plan for BOEM's review and approval. BOEM would then prepare
a site-specific environmental analysis for the project proposed.
the same day last week that that the agency released its environmental
assessment of offshore wind leasing, North Carolina's two Republican
U.S. senators, Richard Burr and the newly elected Thom Tillis,
introduced an amendment
to a bill authorizing the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline that would
force BOEM to include North Carolina in the next round of offshore
leasing for oil and natural gas.
amendment would also allow East Coast states to share in royalties from
any drilling in federal waters off their coasts. Current law doesn't
provide for that type of revenue sharing. The amendment is largely
symbolic since President Obama has said he will veto the Keystone bill
if it reaches his desk.
Tillis, in his first
speech on the Senate floor, said the proposal is about creating
opportunities for Americans. He said the proposal would support
hundreds of thousands of jobs, reduce the cost of utilities for
families and move the nation closer to energy independence.
in a report released last week, noted that offshore wind would provide
many more permanent jobs than oil and gas drilling and wouldn't
threaten North Carolina's environment or coastal tourist-based economy.
it comes to the Atlantic, it’s really a no-brainer as to which path to
go down, especially for North Carolina, which has the best wind
resources on the East Coast," Sopko noted. "We should not be doubling
down on these polluting energies of the past."
The public can read the assessment on offshore wind leasing and submit comments on BOEM’s website, http://www.boem.gov/State-Activities-North-Carolina/,
during the 30-day comment period that began Jan. 22. BOEM will also
hold three public meetings next month to provide an overview of the
findings and offer additional opportunities for public comments.
The meetings are scheduled for:
- Monday, Feb. 9, at a place to be determined along the northern Outer Banks
- Wednesday, Feb. 11, in Wilmington
- Thursday, Feb. 12 in Carolina Shores or Sunset Beach
Specific times and venues will be posted online at http://www.boem.gov/State-Activities-North-Carolina/.
reviewing the public comments, BOEM will either move forward and begin
leasing blocks in the area or revise the assessment. Based on the
comments, the agency could determine that leasing poses severe
environmental consequences. It would then do a more comprehensive
Environmental Impact Statement.
More information about the assessment and BOEM's wind energy leasing program for North Carolina can be found here.
story is provided courtesy of Coastal Review Online, the coastal news
and features service of the N.C. Coastal Federation. You can read other
stories about the North Carolina coast at www.nccoast.org.)