399 Data and Information Needs for Lease Issuance and Environmental Impacts Analysis

Monday, 7 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
Angel McCoy, McCoy Environmental Group, Inc., Hyattsville, MD

The Department of the Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy (BOEM) is the federal agency charged with overseeing the safe and environmentally responsible development of energy and mineral resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The Office of Renewable Energy Programs (OREP) is responsible for the renewable energy activities and alternate energy-related programs on the OCS. OREP oversees the development and implementation of renewable energy leases and environmental compliance with respect to the National Environmental Policy Act.

Prior to leasing areas of the OCS there are specific data and information needs that would support permitting and environmental analysis in order to improve the leasing process under the Secretary of the Interior's Smart from the Start initiative. BOEM must comply with numerous environmental statutes, regulations, and executive orders to carry out its mission. The Cape Wind Associates, LLC wind energy project to be located 4.7 miles offshore Cape Cod, Massachusetts is the most notable offshore renewable energy project to date in U.S. waters. This project could produce enough energy to power more than 200,000 homes in Massachusetts. In conducting the environmental review for this project a number of environmental concerns surfaced. Specific concerns of particular interest to this and future projects include: the potential for meteorological, air quality and climate impacts downstream of a potential wind energy area, long-term alterations to local weather, and the future availability of wind as an energy resource. A thorough understanding of potential environmental impacts due to lease issuance, site assessment and characterization, and ultimately the installation of a renewable energy facility is significant to the environmental compliance process and is critical to the success and longevity of offshore wind energy development in the United States.

In order to better understand the above environmental impacts and others, every year BOEM's Environmental Studies Program (ESP) undertakes an exhaustive process to decide which studies to fund for the next fiscal year. The ESP develops, conducts and oversees world-class scientific research specifically to inform policy decisions regarding development of OCS energy and mineral resources. Research covers physical oceanography, atmospheric sciences, biology, protected species, social sciences and economics, submerged cultural resources and environmental fates and effects. BOEM is dedicated to acquiring and using the highest quality, scientific information in support of Bureau decisions. To that end, ESP employs a rigorous planning, review and procurement process to meet the nation's environmental research needs for OCS resource assessments.

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