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Environmental compliance for U.S. offshore wind [downloadable checklist]

Environmental compliance for offshore wind is not limited to what happens in the COP. What are the compliance activities developers need to know about and how can you plan them effectively?

01 February 2022 | 4 min read

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Don't think that the permitting work stops when you have a permit! After your U.S. offshore wind farm project receives a Record of Decision, the next stages of your development will need compliance activities focused on environmental and socioeconomic considerations. Compliance activities refer to project areas that require further monitoring studies over a particular length of time (as opposed to one-off surveys).

The question is, what monitoring activities should be on your list? What does your project need to consider, plan, schedule, contract out, and budget for? A quick glance at BOEM documentation lists around 40 potential areas that could need monitoring. It’s difficult to find a single, comprehensive list of requirements as they may vary due to regional concerns. What is vital for one wind farm may not be necessary for another.

With this in mind, we dug deeper into the potential compliance monitoring that might be needed for your offshore wind farm development, specifically as it pertains to federal permitting. Depending in which navigable waterways the proposed work will take place, compliance may need to be met depending on what state laws exist and with the state regulators. However, we are only focusing on the federal permits in this article.

To help you keep track, we’ve created a checklist of the compliance monitoring areas in question. If you'd like to, you can download this from the end of the page.

Managing environmental compliance effectively

By the time you plan your construction schedule, you will need to have determined what environmental compliance studies are required for your project, considering pre-construction, construction, and post-construction phases.

Related read: U.S. offshore wind permitting: The SAP, the COP, and the regulatory process in between

Although monitoring may seem like a task to address after permitting, you should be wary of leaving compliance planning until the late stages of your project. The regulatory agencies may ask you about your proposed activities early on, so knowing how and what you will need to monitor is important.

In the permitting stage (i.e., during COP preparation), you will submit environmental monitoring plans to BOEM and NMFS for approval. You will design a monitoring program defining how study activities will be repeated over several years. In the construction stage, you will implement the plans that have been approved and analyze the data that has been collected. With effective environmental compliance monitoring, unexpected project costs and work delays can be prevented, and environmental impacts can be reduced.

The following table shows the studies you may need to consider. Note that not all of the areas to consider will require full-scale repeat studies; some may need individual assessments – such as sediment dispersion modeling – and some may need full, in-field monitoring programs over five years.

Environmental compliance table1.jpg
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Three key tips

  1.  Be aware that U.S. regulatory processes for offshore wind permitting are still in relatively early stages and continues to evolve.
    They are also quite different from those in other regions outside the U.S. This means that it can sometimes be hard to anticipate what regulatory challenges you might experience and factoring this into your overall project schedule will be beneficial.

  2.  Clarity is key.
    BOEM are responsible for putting documentation out for public review, so project documentation needs to clearly communicate any issues to BOEM and be easily understood by other stakeholders, including the public.

  3.  Contracts for environmental consultancy are sometimes awarded to different partners at different stages.
    Consider what this may mean for your project in terms of information sharing and access to data. For example, in the case of a request for supplemental reports, developers must open lines of communication between their original environmental consultant and a third party, or liaise between them. Similarly, developers need to work with BOEM to ensure that the data collected follows their data sharing guidelines. It is important to plan for this in the early stages of your project.