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Mid-Atlantic States Join Forces to Advance Offshore Wind Energy

June 2013

(Washington, DC) — In coordination with the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) has released A Guide to State Management of Offshore Wind Energy in the Mid-Atlantic Region. The guide provides an overview of the issues affecting offshore wind energy projects in the region and identifies the basic elements of state authority to address resource concerns and competing uses such as navigation and fishing. MARCO is an effort launched by the Mid-Atlantic state governments (New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia) four years ago to protect Atlantic Ocean waters while promoting the development of offshore wind energy projects.

The federal government and the five MARCO state governments are actively exploring offshore wind energy development for its potential to promote energy independence, enhance local economic development goals, and help meet state renewable energy standards. Within 50 nautical miles* of the shore from New York to Virginia, there are roughly 410 gigawatts of wind energy potential covering an area of 82,000 square kilometers. Much of that area can be developed using current technology, with a gently sloping, shallow continental shelf and steady offshore winds. But placement of turbines and planning for transmission depends upon characteristics that may vary from site to site. These include local wind resources, ocean bottom conditions, and the compatibility of wind development with existing coastal resources and uses. Added to this complexity are political boundaries and differing state and federal regulatory and planning authorities.

The guide is meant to concisely introduce the offshore wind legal landscape from the state perspective, offering a starting point for collaboration among interested parties. It provides a review of the states’ key legal mechanisms for influencing federal decision-making — the federal Coastal Zone Management Act — and includes a broad overview of the types of information needed by state reviewers. The coastal states have jurisdiction over the waters and submerged lands within their borders and out to a distance of three nautical miles from shore. Under the Coastal Zone Management Act each state has the ability to review federal activities that may affect its coastal uses or resources?including authorized uses of federal waters beyond the state’s territorial boundary.

“This is an outstanding example of states coordinating to get out ahead of key federal decisions,” says ELI Senior Attorney James McElfish. Maryland oceans and coastal program official Gwynne Schultz says: “MARCO hopes that readers will come away with a clearer understanding of the tremendous potential of offshore wind in the Mid-Atlantic region, the basic framework that governs state roles in development, states’ priorities, and how interested parties might approach the wind siting process.”

* One nautical mile equals 1.15 land miles

Report on ELI website:
http://www.elistore.org/reports_detail.asp?ID=11452

Report on MARCO website:
http://www.midatlanticocean.org/owe_April2013.pdf