US Clarifies Offshore Wind Regulatory Roles to Support Industry Growth

U.S. regulatory process for offshore wind
Roles of the two regulatory agencies were defined to streamline the process and reduce development costs

Published Jan 17, 2023 7:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Department of the Interior is taking important steps to support the development and maturation of the offshore renewable energy sector by further defining and simplifying the safety and environmental regulatory responsibilities.  In a move that is being supported by the clean power industry, the Department clarified the roles of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

The steps were part of an effort for the emerging industry that the regulators said would modernize regulations, streamline overly complex and burdensome processes, and clarify ambiguous provisions. While noting that the new rulemaking does not make substantive changes to the current regulatory requirements, they said it would enhance compliance provisions to decrease costs and uncertainty associated with the deployment of offshore wind facilities. 

Among the key actions is the transfer of oversight of regulations governing offshore renewable energy activities, including workplace safety and environmental compliance, from BOEM to BSEE. Going forward, BOEM’s role focuses on determining areas suitable for offshore wind development, issuing the leases, reviewing and approving construction and operating plans. BSEE will evaluate and oversee designs, enforce operational safety and compliance, and decommissioning activities.

“Over the past several months, BOEM and BSEE have taken steps to ensure a seamless transition of functions related to safety and environmental protections for the offshore renewable energy program,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Laura Daniel-Davis. “This rule advances regulatory clarity and transparency for the offshore wind industry. It allows the bureaus to focus on ensuring that future clean energy development and operations continue to occur in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.”

In 2011, the Department of Interior established BOEM and BSEE as new bureaus to carry out its offshore energy management, safety, and environmental oversight missions. The establishment of BOEM and BSEE marked the culmination of an effort to reorganize the former Minerals Management Service following the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. As part of that reorganization, oversight of offshore renewable energy, then an emerging industry, was assigned to BOEM.

American Clean Power, the industry trade group, responded to the formal announcement of defining the bureaus’ roles and responsibilities saying “ACP is pleased by the certainty that this assignment of regulatory responsibility will provide in terms of defining agency roles. We strongly support greater efforts to ensure offshore worker safety and environmental stewardship as we work to deliver more affordable, reliable, and domestic power to Americans through offshore wind.”

The group which represents the maturing clean power industry said it will be working closely with BSEE to refine safety standards. ACP said that it will be initiating a public process with other stakeholders to develop a consensus on offshore wind safety recommended practices and looks forward to working with BSEE on upcoming amendments to the offshore wind safety and inspection regulations.