US Department of the Interior shuffles offshore wind regulatory responsibilities

4C Offshore | Tom Russell
By: Tom Russell 18/01/2023 Department of the Interior
The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced that regulations governing offshore renewable energy activities – including workplace safety and environmental compliance - is being transferred from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

In 2011, the Department formally established BOEM and BSEE as new bureaus to carry out its offshore energy management, safety and environmental oversight missions.

The rulemaking does not make substantive changes to current regulatory requirements, nor does it impose additional regulatory burdens.

Key authorities transferred to BSEE include, but are not limited to: 
Evaluating and overseeing facility design, fabrication, installation, safety management systems and oil spill response plans;
Enforcing operational safety through inspections, incident reporting, and investigations;
Enforcing compliance, including safety and environmental compliance, with all applicable laws, regulations, leases, grants, and approved plans through notices of noncompliance, cessation orders, civil penalties, and other appropriate means; and
Overseeing decommissioning activities.

Regulatory authority for the following functions remains with BOEM:
Determining areas suitable for siting offshore wind energy facilities;
Issuing leases, easements and rights-of-way for activities that produce or support the production, transportation, or transmission of offshore energy or energy resources;  
Reviewing and approving or approving with modifications or disapproving plans, including construction and operations plans, site assessment plans, and general activities plans, required for authorizing offshore renewable energy development; and
Conducting analyses under the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental studies and incorporating mitigation measures into plan approvals to avoid or minimize harm to the marine, coastal, or human environments. 

A joint notice to lessees outlines the transfer of responsibilities with information for submitting information to each bureau. The final rule will publish in the Federal Register in the coming days.

The announcement comes following the release of a proposed rule from BOEM that would modernize regulations, streamline overly complex and burdensome processes, clarify ambiguous provisions, and enhance compliance provisions in order to decrease costs and uncertainty associated with the deployment of offshore wind facilities.