BOEM Finds No Environmental Impacts for Gulf of Mexico Wind Leasing

Gulf of Mexico wind farms
BOEM cleared the next step as it moves toward the Gulf of Mexico's fitst wind lease auction

Published May 30, 2023 5:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued a finding today that it believes there would be no significant impacts to environmental resources in the Gulf of Mexico if its proceeds with the proposed offshore wind leasing efforts in the Gulf. The bureau in October 2022 defined two initial target areas off Texas and Louisiana that would become the first wind lease sites in the area as it works to expand the country’s renewable energy supply.

The U.S. has developed a well-defined process of steps toward the leasing of offshore sites. BOEM in the latest development in the process, and preparing for the eventual auctions, today issued a final environmental assessment (EA). The process reviewed the potential impacts of offshore wind leasing on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico and used the analysis to determine potential issues with the selected sites.

“The completion of our environmental review is an important step forward to advance clean energy development in a responsible manner while promoting economic vitality and well-paying jobs in the Gulf of Mexico region,” said BOEM Director Liz Klein. “We will continue to work closely with our task force members, ocean users, and others to ensure that any development in the region is done responsibly and in a way that avoids, reduces, or mitigates potential impacts to ocean users and the marine environment.”

The findings for today’s announcement were based on the work of the Gulf of Mexico Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, a collaboration between, Federal, state, tribal, and local government agencies. It sought to use available science and indigenous knowledge to minimize conflicts between ocean uses. BOEM reports will continue to meet with the task force as the process moves forward.

The initial call area which comprises 30 million areas was announced in November 2021 and a year later BOEM announced the first two Wind Energy Areas offshore Texas and Louisiana that total about 682,000 acres. According to the bureau, the sites were selected as they represent offshore areas that appear to be the most suitable for wind energy development.

The environmental analysis was prepared for the entire 30-million-acre Call Area to allow greater flexibility for the possible identification of additional WEAs and to provide NEPA coverage in the event that non-competitive and research leases were proposed in the call area. The analysis considered potential environmental consequences of site characterization activities (i.e., biological, archeological, geological, and geophysical surveys and core samples) and site assessment activities (i.e., installation of meteorological buoys) associated with the possibility of issuing wind energy leases in the Gulf of Mexico. 

BOEM announced on February 22, 2023, its proposal for the first offshore wind lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. If BOEM decides to proceed with the sale, the bureau will publish a Final Sale Notice at least 30 days ahead of the sale. It is widely anticipated that they will proceed with the sale in the coming months.

For any proposed offshore wind projects, BOEM will also develop Environmental Impact Statements to analyze the specific environmental consequences of the projects before deciding whether to approve them. The environmental statements would be prepared in consultation with appropriate government agencies and informed by input provided by key stakeholders, tribes, ocean users, and the public.