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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wind Energy: Offshore Permitting

Adam Vann
Legislative Attorney

Technological advancement, financial incentives, and policy concerns have driven a global expansion in the development of renewable energy resources. Wind energy, in particular, is often cited as one of the fastest-growing commercial energy sources in the world. Currently, all U.S. wind energy facilities are based on land. However, multiple offshore projects have been proposed and are at various stages of the federal permitting process.

The United States has the authority to permit and regulate offshore wind energy development within the zones of the oceans under its jurisdiction. The federal government and coastal states each have roles in the permitting process, the extents of which depend on whether the project is located in state or federal waters. Currently, no single federal agency has exclusive responsibility for permitting related to activities on submerged lands in federal waters; authority is allocated among various agencies based on the nature of the resource to be exploited and the potential impacts incidental to such exploitation. The same is true for the offshore wind energy context, where several federal agencies have a role to play in permitting development and operation activities.

Section 388 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct; P.L. 109-58) amended the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) to address previous uncertainties regarding offshore wind projects. This provision retained a role for the Army Corps of Engineers in permitting under the Rivers and Harbors Act but grants ultimate authority over offshore wind energy development to the Secretary of the Interior. The statutory authority granted by Section 388 is administered by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), an agency within the Department of the Interior (DOI). Since the passage of EPAct, BOEM has promulgated rules and guidelines governing the permitting and operation of offshore wind facilities.

Date of Report: October 17, 2012
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: R40175
Price: $29.95

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