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August 24, 2023
Is National Fisheries Pissed At BOEM?
The latest comment letter from the National Marine Fisheries Service to BOEM about the Beacon Wind offshore projects. NWFS has concerns with the plan and was sharply critical of the way BOEM has handled the agency’s prior comments and concerns. The gauntlet was thrown down with the warning that continued ignoring of NWFS concerns would lead to a rejection of a “no jeopardy” ruling that would derail the wind farm’s development. How much is the surge in whale deaths playing in this interagency dispute? Another dead whale washed ashore on Monday – now 66 since December 1, 2022. READ MORE
Is National Fisheries Pissed At BOEM?
We recently read the August 14, 2023, cover letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) from Michael Pentony, the Regional Administrator of the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). NWFS is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The letter was in response to BOEM’s request for comments related to its Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the construction, operation, and decommissioning (COP) of Beacon Wind Energy LLC’s proposed wind energy facilities (Beacon Wind 1 and 2) off the coast of Massachusetts.
Pentony wrote of his organization’s concerns with the plan and recommended approaches to help ease the regulatory process. The letter also contained criticisms of BOEM’s work, with NWFS’ sharpest rebuke in the opening paragraph of Appendix A attached to the letter. The critical comment reflects frustration with BOEM’s treatment of NWFS’ input to previous requests for comments about various offshore wind projects. Here is what NWFS wrote in that opening paragraph in a section headed “Purpose and Need.”
“Since NMFS is an action agency and anticipating a request for incidental take authorization under the MMPA [Marine Mammal Protection Act], we need our Purpose and Need for the action to be clearly stated in the EIS. While BOEM did provide cooperating agencies an opportunity to coordinate on development of the Purpose and Need for the EIS before publication of the NOI, corrections provided by NMFS were not incorporated in the Purpose and Need statement included in the NOI. Some of the edits made by BOEM are additional deviations from previously agreed upon language. We recommend this be corrected in the DEIS [Draft Environmental Impact Statement] by incorporating previously provided revisions for Beacon Wind and following template language developed through extensive interagency cooperation in 2022, including for the NMFS-specific purpose and need.”
Where does this frustration with BOEM come from? Most likely it began with the December 1, 2021, comment letter about the Mayflower Wind (now known as SouthCoast Wind) NOI to prepare an EIS. In those comments, NMFS discussed the speed with which BOEM was putting out requests for input and information about various offshore wind projects, which was not allowing adequate time for the agency to respond. Pentony wrote in his cover letter for NWFS’ comments on the SouthCoast Wind project:
“The high number of projects moving through the NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] process between now and 2024 makes it very difficult for us to provide the detailed level of review and interagency cooperation we have provided in the past. The extensive interagency cooperation we have invested with you to improve the NEPA documents for previous wind energy projects is no longer feasible, and we will be required to take a more limited Cooperating Agency role in the process.”
So BOEM was working so fast that a key agency that advises on the maritime and fishing environmental risks of offshore wind couldn’t do its job properly. Is that like a doctor skipping an examination before telling you what you must do to cure an illness?