Offshore wind energy is a relatively new industry in the United States. Federal regulations were only established for the Outer Continental Shelf Renewable Energy Program in 2009, and a variety of regulatory and non-regulatory processes are still in development for the industry. Although a great deal of attention has been given to understanding and mitigating environmental effects of offshore wind energy development during site assessment and site characterization of lease areas, similar practices for the construction and operations of offshore wind facilities have, in many cases, not yet been fully defined.
As directed by the Environmental Technical Working Group for New York (E-TWG), in April 2019 a volunteer Specialist Committee (hereafter ‘Committee’; Appendix A) was formed to provide stakeholder input on practices to mitigate (avoid, minimize, reduce, or offset) bird and bat impacts from offshore wind development, as well as practices to measure and understand the effects of offshore wind development on these taxa. Committee goals are to (1) develop recommended practices for environmentally responsible development with the purpose of informing a range of offshore wind-related efforts by developers, regulators, and other stakeholders, and (2) promote regional collaboration around environmental mitigation and monitoring for wildlife at offshore wind projects. The Committee is focused on developing recommendations that:
- Are generalized and applicable to a range of development locations, to guide (but not replace) site-specific assessment and mitigation required in permits and approvals. Recommendations may include variable levels of detail, depending on the degree of site-specific variation that must be considered for implementation.
- Are designed to inform decisions for a range of stakeholders involved with the offshore wind energy development process.
- May go beyond what is mandated in current regulations, while providing flexibility to ensure that recommendations can be reconciled with future changes to regulation and other guidance. For example, recommendations could reinforce existing guidelines, add additional detail or specificity to existing guidelines and regulations, or include practices that are not yet addressed by other guidance, but that the Committee judges would serve to advance the state of knowledge and conservation of wildlife for the offshore wind industry.
Committee discussions and written products could inform a range of state, federal, and stakeholder processes. An initial objective of Committee efforts is to inform the New York State Public Service Commission’s (PSC) decision about recommended wildlife mitigation and monitoring practices to include in New York State’s Phase 2 offshore wind energy procurement order. In its Order Establishing Offshore Wind Standard and Framework for Phase I Procurement, the PSC stated that it would consider best practices developed by the E-TWG, and Department of Public Service (DPS) staff have more recently reiterated the willingness of the PSC to consider recommendations put forward by the E-TWG (and the group’s Specialist Committees) for inclusion in future procurements. Thus, recommendations from this Committee may eventually become mandated (if they are implemented in New York’s Phase 2 Procurement) or may remain as voluntary guidelines. This summary document is intended (among other purposes) to support public comments to DPS that are submitted from the E-TWG or other organizations, by summarizing recommendations and the degree of consensus on those recommendations from the broad range of stakeholders represented on the Committee (Appendix A).