03/31/2021 - Legal Analysis - Oceans & Offshore Energy - Student Work

The Problems and Opportunities of Offshore Wind: Recommendations for Collaborative Governance

by Cole Jermyn, JD 2021, EELP Staff

Offshore wind farms are coming to the US. After decades of NIMBYism and a lethargic regulatory process, there are now two pilot projects in US waters and commercial-scale development on the way. On March 29, 2021, the Biden administration announced initial plans for building out offshore wind, including new planned lease sales and a goal of 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030. The administration laid out specific goals for Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to review at least 16 Construction and Operations Plans (COPs) by 2025. Yet, BOEM’s track record on offshore wind does not provide a high degree of confidence that the Bureau is prepared to meet that challenge. The first commercial scale offshore wind project is still waiting for BOEM to approve its COP after years of delay and a challenging environmental review process.

Building on our 2020, 3-part series on offshore wind permitting written by Martin Levy (JD 2020) (available on our Sea Level Rise & Oceans page), Cole Jermyn (JD 2021) takes a closer look at government and developer efforts to engage with the fishing community in the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area and suggests ways that BOEM can use collaborative governance approaches to reduce conflict and accelerate permitting. Download Cole’s paper here.

Commercial fishermen have emerged as the strongest opposition to offshore wind development right now. Having worked off the US coast for longer than the country has existed, fishermen have faced little in the way of offshore development that would conflict with their work in the areas being considered for commercial-scale offshore wind. Fishermen have expressed concerns that these wind farms will make it difficult to fish in the area, displace them from historical fishing grounds, and potentially force them into conflict with other fishermen. Fishing community opposition presents a significant challenge to the new administration’s achieving its renewable energy goals.

Cole’s paper looks at how improved collaborative governance efforts by BOEM could help the agency and developers to overcome fishing industry opposition to offshore wind projects and accelerate long-term development of wind farms. Part I looks at how BOEM and wind developers have consulted with fishermen during the offshore wind leasing and development process for the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area (WEA) and Vineyard Wind project. Part II looks at existing collaboration and consultation efforts for offshore wind within BOEM and at the state level that could inform an improved process. And Part III makes recommendations for what BOEM can do, with support from Congress, to make offshore wind siting and development a truly collaborative process.

Download this paper: The Problems and Opportunities of Offshore Wind, Cole Jermyn (JD 2021), March 31, 2021.