The Gulf of Mexico (GOM) has long been home to offshore energy development, but with President Biden’s call to advance offshore wind development, a new change is potentially coming to the horizon—wind farms. At the helm of GOM wind development is the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), who has now announced the solicitation of public comments on two potential wind energy areas (WEA) off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana and the related environmental assessment (EA) for the entire GOM Call Area. Comments will be accepted for both for 30 days starting July 20, 2022, and are expected from wind developers, manufacturers of wind infrastructure, oil and gas companies and related services companies, fishermen, offshore recreational operators, and hospitality and cruise line operators, among others.
Secretary Haaland in the DOI announcement stated that “the Gulf of Mexico is one of many commitments we are making to spur innovation, create good-paying jobs, and collaborate with states, Tribes and communities to ensure that we are doing everything we can to care for our Earth.” BOEM director Amanda Lefton added, “We are invested in working in partnership with states and communities to find areas that avoid or minimize conflicts with other ocean uses and marine life in the Gulf of Mexico.”
The two WEAs are 24 miles off the coast of Galveston and 56 miles off the coast of Lake Charles, LA. Together they include more than 730,00 acres and have the potential to power more than 3 million homes. The comment period for the draft WEAs and draft EA will run concurrently with two virtual public meetings planned for August 9 at 4 pm Central and August 11 at 1 pm Central.
While offshore development is not a novel concept in this administration, the GOM is a core hub of the oil and gas industry. As a result, myriad comments addressing climate change, economic impacts, the environment, hospitality and tourism, and workforce opportunities are to be expected. Companies with a stake in or impacted by GOM wind development should plan to comment, and the attorneys at Hunton Andrews Kurth are well-positioned to assist clients in preparing comments.