Transfer of Offshore Wind Safety and Environmental Responsibilities
The Department of the Interior (“DOI”) transferred safety and environmental oversight for the Outer Continental Shelf (“OCS”) renewable energy program from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”) to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”) on January 31, 2023. Importantly, the transfer does not affect current regulatory requirements for offshore wind development, but merely the agency responsible for oversight and enforcement.
A number of reorganizations have occurred over the years since the Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized the Secretary of Interior to grant OCS leases for renewable energy activities. When the Minerals Management Service was divided in 2011 following the Deepwater Horizon incident, the Secretary of Interior highlighted the importance of separating the lease planning and management functions and safety and environmental enforcement functions into two separate entities, creating BOEM and BSEE, respectively. A third entity was also created to manage the royalty and revenue management functions.
The renewable energy program, however, remained with BOEM entirely as the program was still in early development. It was noted that the renewable energy program would be split between the entities when it is determined that “an increase in activity justifies transferring the inspection and enforcement functions” to BSEE.
In December 2020, it was determined that OCS renewable energy activities had reached the threshold at which inspection and enforcement functions should be transferred to BSEE. The DOI Departmental Manual was then revised to redelegate authorities for the renewable energy program between the entities.
Recent Rulemaking and Notice to Lessees (“NTL”)
In a final rulemaking effective on January 31, 2023, certain renewable energy regulations were transferred from BOEM to BSEE consistent with the revised Departmental Manual. The regulations reassigned to BSEE relate to safety, environmental oversight, and enforcement. No changes to current regulatory requirements were made.
The authorities transferred to BSEE include: oversight of facility design, fabrication, installation, and safety management systems; ensuring the safety of operations, including inspection programs and incident reporting and investigations; enforcing compliance with all applicable safety, environmental, and other laws and regulations through enforcement actions; and oversight of decommissioning activities. Please see the following links to the January 31, 2003, final rule and the BSEE and BOEM joint NTL:
- Reorganization of Title 30-Renewable Energy and Alternate Uses of Existing Facilities on the Outer Continental Shelf
- Plan Revisions NTL 7-1-10 with OMB Control
In conclusion, this recent DOI action clarifies the changes in agency responsibilities regarding the oversight of offshore wind lease-related activities. With these changes, the regulatory authorities for renewable energy now parallel oil and gas.
This article is one in a series of articles written for Blank Rome’s MAINBRACE: March 2023 edition.