Offshore wind energy development (OSW) is a nascent industry in NYS and the United States that will require both federal and State environmental review. A proposed project in federal waters (more than three miles off NYS’ coast) would trigger a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, compliance with multiple federal wildlife laws, a Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) consistency review, and compliance with multiple State laws. Because there is currently no OSW in NYS, there is little precedent for permitting, leading to questions and uncertainties about the environmental permitting process for this type of development. Reducing these uncertainties will enhance the opportunity for OSWD projects to develop at scale, capturing the benefits of OSWD at the lowest possible cost.
To reduce this uncertainty, State and federal regulators participated in a process to help define the goals of environmental assessments for OSW and wildlife. Participants included State regulators from the Department of State (DOS) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Federal participants included regulators from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), along with attorneys from the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). Participants responded to confidential surveys and attended Web-based meetings that were structured around five topic areas: overarching environmental assessment; coastal zone management; listed species; protected birds; and fish and fish habitats. Additionally, two advisory groups provided independent input on this process: developers/environmental consultants and environmental nongovernmental organizations (ENGOs).
This report contains two major sections. The first half (Section 3) is a synthesis of the input received by participants throughout this project and reflects the views of the report’s authors. The second half (Section 4) represents more detailed input from all participants obtained from written surveys and group discussions. Neither section should be considered prescriptive of regulatory and permitting processes. Rather, this document is intended to provide a platform and framework to inform the future development of formal guidance documents as well as inform further discussions, research, and policy considerations for wildlife and marine wind power in NYS.