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Within the first six weeks of 2022, both state and federal governments have taken steps toward offshore wind energy development off the coast of Louisiana.

On February 1, the Climate Initiatives Task Force submitted the Louisiana Climate Action Plan to Governor Edwards. The Plan offers strategies and actions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Louisiana. The development of offshore wind energy would aid in meeting the State’s goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Action 1.3 from the Plan focuses on prioritizing offshore wind strategic planning for outreach, workforce, and impact assessments in order to reach an offshore wind power generation goal of 5 gigawatts by 2035. This action entails collaboration between Louisiana agencies and the federal government, as well as transmission planning agencies, energy regulators, utilities, and the private sector.

In addition to Action 1.3, many other strategies and actions are connected to offshore wind energy development as well. For example, Strategy 20 relates to maximizing potential federal funding opportunities. One priority area where Louisiana plans to advocate for increased federal support is in accelerating offshore wind energy development.

In furtherance of the strategies and actions listed in the Plan, Louisiana is working with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to take the necessary steps to hold a lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico for wind energy development. An important next step in wind energy leasing was announced earlier this year. On January 11, BOEM announced that it is preparing a draft environmental assessment (EA) to consider the environmental impacts of activities associated with wind energy leasing in the Gulf of Mexico.

BOEM is the sub-agency within the U.S. Department of Interior which is responsible for managing offshore energy leasing. BOEM will study approximately 30 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) region, located west of the Mississippi River to the Texas/Mexican border. The draft EA, which BOEM expects to complete sometime this summer, will consider the potential environmental consequences of site characterization and site assessment activities associated with wind energy leases. Examples of these activities include meteorological buoys, vessel trips, and geological and biological surveys.

The draft EA will analyze physical and chemical resources including water quality, fish, birds, and more; social and economic factors; impact-producing factors (IPFs) including pollution and noise; and how the IPFs could affect the resources. Since BOEM is still in the early stages of its renewable energy process, the draft EA will only consider potential environmental impacts related to those activities related to the possibility of issuing leases and will not consider the potential impacts of wind energy projects in the Gulf.

Following BOEM’s announcement, it hosted four sector-specific Gulf of Mexico Fisheries workshops on January 19 and 20. These meetings were held to discuss BOEM’s upcoming plans, the environmental review process, frequently asked questions, and to gather information from stakeholders to help avoid or mitigate impacts on commercial and recreational fisheries.

Through the implementation of the Climate Action Plan and the development of the draft environmental assessment, we expect to continue to see steps toward offshore wind energy development in the Gulf of Mexico throughout 2022.

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