Interior to oversee worker safety for offshore wind

Source: By Heather Richards, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Interior Department today named itself the primary authority overseeing worker safety in the offshore wind sector.

The nascent offshore wind industry requested the policy statement clarifying Interior’s role, according to the department. There is currently one offshore wind facility operating in the United States, but policy commitments of northern states and falling wind development costs are driving a rapid increase in offshore project proposals for the outer continental shelf.

Interior has leased 1.7 million acres of the outer continental shelf for offshore wind.

In a statement, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Director Scott Angelle called the Interior policy a “milestone” in the developing offshore wind program.

Walter Cruickshank, acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said the country’s energy independence “vision” depended on future offshore wind projects that prioritize worker safety.

Interior did not explain today how worker safety and health responsibilities would be divided between BSEE and BOEM.

BOEM is the lead agency for leasing and permitting offshore wind facilities, a role it also plays for the offshore oil and gas sector. Its sister agency, BSEE, oversees environmental compliance and worker safety in offshore oil and gas development. The two Interior agencies were spun out of the now dissolved Minerals Management Service following the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010 that killed 11 men.

Interior’s authority on the outer continental shelf does not extend to workplace safety and health on vessels, including those servicing offshore wind. That remains the responsibility of the Coast Guard. Interior said it will work in consultation with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an arm of the Labor Department.