January 9, 2024

Whitehouse Releases Discussion Draft of Bill to Improve Offshore Wind Development Process

Whitehouse requests feedback on his bill from all stakeholders, including federal, state, and local agencies, industries, developers, and communities

Providence, RI – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today released a discussion draft of his comprehensive legislation to improve the offshore wind development process and get new sources of affordable clean energy on the grid, the Create Offshore Leadership and Livelihood Alignment By Operating Responsibly And Together for the Environment (COLLABORATE) Act. 

The Senator’s COLLABORATE Act would improve permitting, coordination, and cooperation between agencies and with developers and stakeholders, establish a holistic process for offshore wind transmission, and boost support for fisheries and other potentially affected stakeholders, including the establishment of a compensation fund for eligible recipients. 

“Offshore wind is an abundant resource that we have to harness to meet our climate and clean energy goals.  To unlock the full potential of offshore wind, we need to lower the barriers standing in the way of growth,” said Whitehouse.  “The Block Island Wind Farm is a successful model for offshore wind development.  My legislation applies the Rhode Island model of good-faith cooperation to the federal interagency process, while streamlining permitting and transmission problems.”

In 2016, Rhode Island became home to America’s first offshore wind farm, located off the coast of Block Island.

“I encourage anyone with an interest in improving the offshore wind permitting process to reach out to my office to offer feedback on the proposal,” added Whitehouse.  “It’s important we get this right in a way that balances the needs of different ocean users – the pathway to a clean energy future and climate safety is narrowing fast, and we can’t afford to lose investments to bureaucratic delays and endless red tape.”

Provisions in the discussion draft include:

Timely Permitting, Coordination, and Engagement:

  • Creating a Director for Offshore Wind in the White House
  • Establishing a five-year leasing schedule for offshore wind, updated every two years
  • Requiring federal agency engagement with stakeholders in the areas identified by the leasing schedule
  • Conducting offshore wind planning area impact studies ahead of assessing commercial interest in a lease area
  • Using the impact study results to inform identification of potential offshore wind lease areas; evaluating potential lease areas for other factors, such as potential power capacity, commercial viability, existing and future transmission availability and capacity
  • Updating the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) responsibilities for renewable energy production on the Outer Continental Shelf
  • Establishing designated project managers at agencies with permitting authorities
  • Requiring timely meetings with BOEM and relevant federal agencies to help ensure prompt and thorough project delivery
  • Cataloging of outreach and feedback from agencies and stakeholders in filing a Construction and Operations Plan
  • Setting a timeframe to issue any outstanding agency authorizations following issuance of the Record of Decision
  • Placing offshore wind project judicial reviews with the court of appeals for the circuit in which the affected State is located

Offshore Transmission:

  • Initiating a BOEM rule for permitting offshore wind transmission, including for lines independent of generation facilities
  • Identifying offshore wind transmission cable corridors in the national interest and making such lines in such corridors eligible for federal transmission program financing
  • Establishing standards to integrate different offshore wind transmission technologies
  • Directing FERC to require consideration of offshore wind reliability, resiliency and resource adequacy effects and multi-value cost allocation in any interregional planning rule
  • Directing to states to evaluate the incorporation of offshore wind onto their grid systems, if they have not already begun or completed such a process
  • Funding the research and development necessary to build an integrating offshore wind transmission network
  • Establishing offshore wind task forces to advise on the transmission rulemaking, corridor identification, financing, and manufacturing needs

Fisheries:

  • Establishing a fund and a formula that would provide compensation from developers to affected stakeholders
  • Creating a gear loss program, modeled off of the existing program for offshore oil and gas
  • Standing up two grant programs, one for research on the effects of offshore wind development on fisheries resources and one to fund technologies that support the coexistence of offshore wind development and other ocean users

The COLLABORATE Act would also complement Whitehouse’s RISEE Act, which aims to create a new dedicated stream of funding from offshore wind development for coastal protection and resiliency, by capping bidding credits that developers can use in lease auctions to protect states’ offshore wind revenues.

The full text of the discussion draft is available here

Comments from interested stakeholders are requested by February 9 and should be sent to Senator Whitehouse’s staff at collaborateact@whitehouse.senate.gov.

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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921

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