The draft assessment considers potential environmental and socioeconomic effects of issuing renewable energy leases in designated Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) offshore New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
It is part of US interior secretary Ken Salazar’s "Smart from the Start" initiative, launched last November, which aims to cut seven-to-nine-year planning time for offshore wind schemes in the States by two years or more.
Rather than requiring two environmental impact statements from developers - one to gain a lease for wind farm site assessments (with geophysical surveys and meteorological tower installation) and a second for construction and operation – BOEMRE will conduct an initial environmental assessment of WEAs, requiring developers only to carry out site-specific assessments once leases are issued.
"The ‘Smart from the Start’ initiative will help companies identify areas offshore that are best suited for wind development, while also reducing the potential for costly delays and red tape," said Salazar.
"With today’s announcement, we are taking another step toward ensuring that renewable development along the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) becomes a reality."
BOEMRE director Michael R. Bromwich added: "If leases are issued in these geographic areas [the WEAs], we will conduct a thorough environmental analysis of each proposed commercial project. We will continue to work with our state renewable energy task forces to advance renewable energy development carefully and responsibly."