Interior begins review of Mass. lease

Source: Phil Taylot • Posted: Monday, February 6, 2012

The Interior Department today said it is beginning a review of commercial wind energy leasing off the coast of Massachusetts, the latest in a handful of states to move forward with development.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it seeks input on an environmental assessment of the impacts of leasing up to 826,241 acres of federal waters located more than 14 miles off the state’s coast.

The decision follows Interior’s announcement yesterday that it has finalized its review of a plan to offer hundreds of thousands of acres of wind leasing areas off the coasts of Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware and plans to hold its first sale as early as this year (Greenwire, Feb. 2).

“BOEM recognizes the proactive steps that the commonwealth has taken to encourage environmentally sound offshore wind energy development and we are working together to refine a suitable wind energy area off the coast of Massachusetts,” BOEM Director Tommy Beaudreau said in a statement. “We will follow marine spatial planning principles as we continue to gather information and coordinate with other [outer continental shelf] users throughout the leasing process.”

Today’s announcement comes more than a year after Interior first requested comments on developing off the Massachusetts coast. The area was eventually whittled down to about half its size due to potential conflicts with fishermen and other ocean users.

While that move was criticized by some Republicans, Democrats and a top wind official said it was a balanced decision that will defuse future conflicts.

“I applaud the Obama administration for working closely with Massachusetts and our fishing, shipping, and environmental interests, to move forward on a standardized permitting and leasing program for wind development off our shores,” said Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, in a statement.

“The answer to America’s clean energy future really is blowing in the wind,” Markey said. “But the tens of thousands of jobs to be created in offshore wind energy will be at risk if Republicans insist on raising taxes on the wind industry and keep the playing field tilted in favor of big oil and king coal.”