Earlier this year, LWF passed a resolution on offshore wind energy in the Gulf of Mexico and signed on to a letter with other environmental organizations to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) urging that plans for all phases of offshore wind energy development in the Gulf of Mexico are done so responsibly by following the mitigation hierarchy to first avoid, then minimize and mitigate impacts from development. Additionally, this development should be guided by the best available scientific and technological data and remain adaptable as additional knowledge becomes available. Read more on that here.
Although federal projects are still years away from being out in the Gulf, what could be coming sooner are projects in state waters, which follows a completely separate permitting process. In June, LWF signed on to a letter with other groups expressing serious concerns to the Department of Natural Resources. We have serious concerns about whether offshore wind in state waters can meet the criteria of responsible development, particularly under the current permitting regime, which lacks a robust environmental analysis and comprehensive siting process.
In our federal advocacy, we have stressed that the unique characteristics of nearshore waters in general, in combination with the ecological importance and sensitivity of Louisiana’s coastal habitat specifically, underscore the importance of making environmentally-informed siting decisions. The Gulf’s nearshore and coastal waters (<20 nautical miles) contain the most biologically productive areas.
During the federal comment process for siting offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico, in which the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) solicits stakeholder and expert input to help inform its siting decisions, we cautioned against permitting offshore wind turbines within 20 nautical miles from shore.
Whether the project is located in state waters or federal waters, each location and project require thorough analysis and scrutiny. Ultimately, projects will be evaluated based on whether or not they can be responsibly developed at a particular location, meaning, in part, whether or not the risks offshore wind poses to wildlife and habitat can be sufficiently avoided, minimized, and mitigated to reduce significant adverse impacts.
Louisiana’s wetlands and coastal waters create a productive and vital ecosystem that supports numerous species of marine mammals, sea turtles, birds, fish, invertebrates, and habitats. Our evaluation of projects in state waters will use a science-based approach to assess the unique characteristics of the Louisiana Coastal Zone to help advise the state in its siting decisions. LWF will continue to work with partners in evaluating siting decisions at both the federal and state level.