In one of her first acts, the newly-appointed director of the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has reopened consideration of the permit application for the first commercial-scale offshore wind farm in U.S. federal waters.
“Offshore wind has the potential to help our nation combat climate change, improve resilience through reliable power, and spur economic development to create good-paying jobs,” said incoming BOEM Director Amanda Lefton in a statement. “BOEM is committed to conducting a robust and timely review of the proposed project.”
In early December, Vineyard Wind’s developer asked for a temporary pause on its EIS review to consider the possibility of using a new model of wind turbine. The Department of the Interior – operating under different leadership – ruled that by requesting the halt, Vineyard Wind had “formally withdrawn” its application. BOEM had been expected to rule on the application by January 15, and starting over would have meant a new delay of six to 18 months, according to Bloomberg.
Vineyard Wind asked BOEM to restart processing its original application on January 22, two days after the start of the Biden administration. On February 3, with Lefton at the helm, BOEM agreed.
“Today’s announcement from BOEM on the Vineyard Wind project helps move our country closer to realizing the once in a generation opportunity that offshore wind represents to combat climate change and jumpstart our nation’s economy,” said Heather Zichal, the CEO of the American Clean Power Association. “We applaud Director Lefton for hitting the ground running and moving President Biden’s offshore wind agenda forward.”
Until this month, Lefton served as the First Assistant Secretary for Energy and the Environment in the office of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. Under Cuomo, New York has become the leading state-level advocate for offshore wind development on the U.S. East Coast, providing deep subsidies for wind port infrastructure and holding state-organized tenders for wind farm power purchase agreements (PPAs). Lefton played a role in creating New York’s Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which commits the state to acquiring nine gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2035. Prior to joining the governor’s office, Lefton served as deputy policy director at The Nature Conservancy.
Acting BOEM director Walter Cruickshank – a longtime top regulator at the agency – is expected to return to his former role as deputy director.
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