U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Proposes Update for Offshore Renewable Energy Regulations

On January 10, 2023, the Department of the Interior (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) signed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) regarding an update to the regulations governing the development of offshore wind energy on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in an effort to modernize the existing regulations and facilitate development to meet the U.S. climate and renewable energy objectives. The existing regulations for leasing and managing OCS renewable energy activities were promulgated by the Minerals Management Service (BOEM’s predecessor) on April 29, 2009 (as authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the OCS Lands Act).

The goals of the NOPR are to streamline processes identified as overly complex and burdensome, clarify ambiguous provisions, enhance compliance provisions, and correct technical errors and inconsistences.

The NOPR includes proposals for incremental funding of decommissioning accounts; more flexible geophysical and geotechnical survey submission requirements; streamlined approval of meteorological (met) buoys; revised project verification procedures; establishing a public renewable energy leasing schedule; reform of BOEM’s renewable energy auction process; and greater clarity regarding safety requirements.

One of the most significant new provisions would to restructure commercial lease terms into four periods tied to activities required to develop the lease; explicitly allow regulatory departures before and after a lease or grant is issued or made; authorize civil penalties without either notice or a time period for corrective action when violations cause or threaten to cause serious, irreparable, or immediate harm or damage; add specific procedures regarding lease segregation and consolidation; and standardize the annual rental rate per acre across most grants.

DOI and BOEM hope that the updates will reduce administrative burdens for developers as well as costs and uncertainty. They project that the proposed rule will save the renewable energy industry $1 billion over 20 years.

Comments on the proposed rule will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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