Pursuant to Title 30 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 585, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has regulatory authority over offshore energy development including conventional oil and gas exploration and production, and renewable energy production from wind, waves, and currents. BOEM must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) prior to approving a lessee’s construction and operation plan for a wind or other renewable energy production project on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). NEPA analyses (Environmental Assessments [EAs] or Environmental Impact Statements [EISs]) typically focus on adverse impacts to the environment. However, NEPA analyses also need to include environmental and socioeconomic benefits analyses. AECOM has been contracted by BOEM to prepare this white paper to identify resources and describe technical approaches that can be used by authors of EAs and EISs to capture the beneficial effects that can accrue from the development of renewable energy sources on the OCS. This white paper is also prepared for interested members of the general public who seek a better understanding of how benefits can be captured, described, and evaluated during the NEPA process.
In 2007, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) published the report Assessing the Costs and Benefits of Electricity Generation Using Alter native Energy Resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (MMS 2007a). The report noted that while wind is not the only potential energy resource in the offshore environment, the commercial-scale development of energy from hydrokinetic sources (waves and tidal and ocean currents) is considerably behind the commercial-scale development of offshore wind, despite nearly a decade of development. Since October 2010, BOEM has issued 13 commercial wind energy leases consisting of 1,383,109 acres (over 559,724 hectares). In contrast, no commercially viable hydrokinetic projects have been developed on the OCS, although several demonstration projects have been proposed.
In addition, in April 2009, BOEM and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that clarified jurisdiction of each agency over renewable energy projects on the OCS. In the MOU, BOEM has jurisdiction over offshore wind and solar power projects and issues leases for hydrokinetic energy projects, while the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issues licenses for offshore hydrokinetic energy production. Because information on wind energy production methods are more robust than other offshore alternative energy sources and offshore wind energy production falls fully within BOEM’s regulatory authority, this report is primarily focused on offshore wind production. However, many of the issues considered and resources identified in this report are applicable to other renewable energy projects, independent of the offshore wind energy generation method under consideration.
This report is organized into three primary sections: Section 2 briefly discusses three factors that will be important in dictating how a NEPA-focused benefits analysis could be included in the NEPA process; Section 3 identifies tools and resources for conducting the benefits analysis; and Section 4 describes where in the NEPA process this benefit analysis could most readily fit. Section 5 provides a summary of the key features of the white paper.