[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 240 (Thursday, December 13, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 74218-74220]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-30091]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

[Docket No. BOEM-2012-0090]


Commercial Wind Leasing and Site Assessment Activities on the 
Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Offshore North Carolina

AGENCY: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Assessment.

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SUMMARY: BOEM is publishing this Notice of Intent To Prepare an 
Environmental Assessment (EA) for the purpose of involving Federal 
agencies, states, tribes, local governments, offshore wind energy 
developers, and the public in the Department of the Interior's (DOI) 
``Smart from the Start'' wind energy initiative offshore North 
Carolina. The ``Smart from the Start'' wind energy initiative is 
designed to identify areas that appear to be suitable for wind energy 
leasing on the OCS, known as Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) and to obtain 
public and expert input that will inform DOI's decisionmaking with 
regard to issuing leases and approving site assessment activities in 
these areas, in accordance with applicable DOI regulations and the 
Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations implementing the 
provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 as 
amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).
    The ``Smart from the Start'' initiative involves coordinated 
environmental studies, large-scale planning processes, and expedited 
review procedures within these areas to achieve an efficient and 
responsible renewable energy leasing process. More information on the 
``Smart from the Start'' initiative can be found at: http://boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/Smart-from-the-Start/Index.aspx.
    In consultation with other Federal agencies and the BOEM North 
Carolina Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, BOEM has 
identified three areas under consideration for potential future wind 
energy leasing offshore North Carolina (Call Areas). These Call Areas 
are identified in the document entitled, Commercial Leasing for Wind 
Power on the Outer Continental Shelf Offshore North Carolina-Call for 
Information and Nominations (Call), which is being published 
concurrently with this Notice. The publication of a Call is the first 
public step in BOEM's offshore wind planning process for North 
Carolina, and additional opportunities for public involvement are 
required before any commercial wind leases would be issued. A 
commercial lease gives the lessee the exclusive right to subsequently 
seek BOEM approval for the development of the leasehold. The lease does 
not grant the lessee the right to construct any facilities; rather, the 
lease grants the lessee the right to use the leased area to develop its 
plans, which BOEM must approve before the lessee can move on to the 
next stage of the process. See 30 CFR 585.600 and 585.601.
    BOEM intends to prepare an EA, which is the subject of this Notice, 
that will consider the environmental consequences associated with the 
possible future issuance of commercial wind leases and approving site 
assessment activities on those leases (within all or some of these Call 
Areas). BOEM is seeking public input regarding the identification of 
the alternatives to be considered in the EA, as well as the 
environmental and/or socioeconomic issues to be analyzed.
    Furthermore, section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act 
(16 U.S.C. 470f) and its implementing regulations at 36 CFR 800 require 
Federal agencies to consider the effects of their actions on historic 
properties, and afford the Advisory Council on Historic Properties an 
opportunity to comment (36 CFR 800.1). Therefore, BOEM will conduct 
Section 106 review for the issuance of leases and approval of site 
assessment activities within some or all of the Call Areas, in 
coordination with its environmental review. As part of this Section 106 
review, BOEM will initiate consultation with state historic 
preservation officer, tribal officials, and others. With the 
publication of this Notice, BOEM is reaching out to the general public 
for comments regarding the identification of historic properties or 
potential effects to historic properties from leasing and site 
assessment activities in the Call Areas. Submitted information will 
allow BOEM to consider the views of the public and document historic 
preservation concerns early in the Section 106 process.

    Authority:  This Notice of Intent to prepare an EA is published 
pursuant to 43 CFR 46.305.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michelle Morin, BOEM Office of 
Renewable Energy Programs, 381 Elden Street, HM 1328, Herndon, Virginia 
20170-4817, (703) 787-1340 or michelle.morin@BOEM.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

1. The OCS Wind Energy Planning, Leasing and Development Process

    There are four key phases in the wind energy planning, leasing and 
development process on the OCS: (1) Planning and siting; (2) lease 
issuance; (3) approval of a site assessment plan (SAP); and (4) 
approval of a construction and operations plan (COP). Publication of 
the Call and this NOI are steps in the first phase of this process. The 
second phase, issuance of a commercial renewable energy lease, gives 
the lessee an exclusive right to submit plans, the approval of which is 
necessary for a lessee to advance to the next stage of the renewable 
energy development process. The third phase is the applicant's 
submission and BOEM's subsequent review and approval of a SAP. Approval 
of a SAP allows the lessee to construct and install equipment on the 
leasehold, such as a meteorological tower and/or buoys, to perform site 
assessment functions. See 30 CFR 585.600-585.601; 585.605-585.618. Site 
characterization activities are necessary to support a lessee's 
proposed site assessment activities (e.g., geological and geophysical 
surveys and core samples) and the lessee must submit the results of 
such surveys with the supporting data in its SAP. See 30 CFR 585.610. 
The submission of a SAP is separate from the submission of a COP. After 
the lessee has collected the additional site characterization and 
assessment data necessary for a COP, the lessee may submit its COP. The 
COP would be subject to additional project specific environmental 
review. The approval of the COP would authorize the construction and 
operation of a renewable energy generation facility on the lease. See 
30 CFR 585.620-585.629.

2. Proposed Action and Scope of Analysis

    The proposed action that will be the subject of the EA is the 
issuance of renewable energy leases within all or some of the Call 
Areas described in this Notice, and the approval of site

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assessment activities on those leases (i.e., Phases 2 and 3 of the wind 
energy planning, leasing and development process). BOEM will also 
consider in the EA the environmental impacts associated with the site 
characterization activities that it anticipates lessees might 
eventually undertake to fulfill the SAP and COP information 
requirements at 30 CFR 585.610 and 585.626, respectively.
    Additional analysis under NEPA will be required before any future 
decision is made regarding the approval of the construction or 
operation of any wind energy facility on leases that may be issued 
within all or some of these Call Areas. If and when a lessee is ready 
to begin the final phase of renewable energy development, it will 
submit a COP. If, in the future, a COP is submitted for a particular 
project on a lease, BOEM would undertake a separate site- and project-
specific NEPA analysis and consultations. This specific NEPA analysis 
would likely take the form of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) 
and would provide additional opportunities for public involvement 
pursuant to NEPA and the CEQ regulations at 40 CFR 1500-1508. The NEPA 
process would provide the public and Federal officials with 
comprehensive site- and project-specific information, which would 
consider the reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts of the 
specific project the lessee is proposing. These potential impacts will 
be taken into account when deciding whether to approve, approve with 
modification, or disapprove the COP pursuant to 30 CFR 585.628.
    Based on the information submitted in response to this Notice and 
the Call, BOEM will determine the level of interest in the Call Areas 
and identify the areas that would be appropriate to move forward with 
in BOEM's offshore wind planning, leasing, and development process. The 
areas identified will constitute WEA(s) under the ``Smart from the 
Start'' initiative, and will be the area(s) analyzed in this EA. That 
step in the process is referred to as Area Identification.
    This EA, will consider the environmental consequences associated 
with reasonably foreseeable leasing scenarios (not development itself), 
reasonably foreseeable site characterization scenarios within these 
lease areas (including geophysical, geotechnical, archaeological, and 
biological surveys), and reasonably foreseeable site assessment 
scenarios (including the installation and operation of meteorological 
towers and buoys) on the leases that may be issued within all or some 
of the Call Areas. At a minimum, two alternatives will be considered: 
no action (i.e., no issuance of leases or approval of site assessment 
activities); and the issuance of leases and approval of site assessment 
activities within the identified portion(s) of the Call Areas. BOEM is 
therefore soliciting input on these and/or other alternatives, and on 
the environmental and socioeconomic issues to be considered in this EA 
related to the potential environmental effects of the activities listed 
above.
    Federal, state, and local government agencies, tribal governments, 
and other interested parties may assist BOEM in determining the issues, 
and any additional alternatives, to be analyzed in the EA. Input is 
also requested on measures (e.g., limitations on activities based on 
technology, distance from shore, or timing) that could lessen impacts 
to environmental resources and socioeconomic conditions that could 
result from leasing, site characterization, and site assessment 
activities taking place in the Call Areas or from support activities 
taking place outside the Call Areas. Consultation with other Federal 
agencies, tribal governments, and affected states will be carried out 
during the EA process and will be completed before a final decision is 
made on whether any particular lease will be issued or site assessment 
activities on those leases approved.
    If BOEM determines during the EA process that issuing leases and 
conducting site characterization and assessment activities within the 
Call Areas would result in significant environmental impacts, BOEM will 
publish a Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS for the issuance of 
renewable energy leases and approval of site assessment activities 
within all or some of these Call Areas. If BOEM determines during the 
EA process that issuing leases and conducting site characterization and 
assessment activities within the Call Areas would not result in 
significant environmental impacts, BOEM will issue a Finding of No 
Significant Impact (FONSI). After either a FONSI is issued or the EIS 
process is completed, BOEM may issue one or more renewable energy 
leases within all or some of these Call Areas. In the event that a 
particular lease is issued, and the lessee submits a SAP, BOEM will 
determine whether the EA adequately considers the environmental impacts 
of the activities proposed in the lessee's SAP. If the analysis in the 
EA adequately addresses these impacts, then no further NEPA analysis 
would be required before the SAP is approved. If the EA analysis is 
inadequate, additional NEPA analysis would be conducted before the SAP 
could be approved.

3. Information That Will Be Incorporated Into the EA

    On November 6, 2007, BOEM published a Notice of Availability (NOA) 
in the Federal Register (72 FR 62,672) of the Programmatic EIS for 
Alternative Energy Development and Production and Alternate Use of 
Facilities on the Outer Continental Shelf, Final EIS (OCS Report MMS 
2007-046) (Programmatic EIS). On February 3, 2012, BOEM published a NOA 
in the Federal Register (77 FR 5560) of the Final EA for Commercial 
Wind Lease Issuance and Site Assessment Activities on the Atlantic 
Outer Continental Shelf Offshore New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and 
Virginia (OCS EIS/EA BOEM 2012-003) (Mid-Atlantic EA), which addressed 
activities similar to those to be addressed in the EA for which this 
Notice is being published.
    BOEM will incorporate the environmental and socioeconomic analyses 
of site characterization and assessment activities from the 
Programmatic EIS, Mid-Atlantic EA, and other public information to help 
inform its analysis in this EA. The EA will incorporate the principles 
of national ocean policy, including comprehensive interagency 
coordination.

4. Description of the Call Areas

    A detailed description of the Call Areas can be found in the Call 
that is being published concurrently with this Notice.
    A map of the Call Area can be found at the following URL: http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/State-Activities/North-Carolina.aspx.

5. Cooperating Agencies

    BOEM invites Federal, state, and local government agencies, as well 
as tribal governments, to consider becoming cooperating agencies in the 
preparation of this EA. CEQ regulations implementing the procedural 
provisions of NEPA define cooperating agencies as those with 
``jurisdiction by law or special expertise'' (40 CFR 1508.5). Potential 
cooperating agencies should consider their authority and capacity to 
assume the responsibilities of a cooperating agency and remember that 
an agency's role in the environmental analysis neither enlarges nor 
diminishes the final decision-making authority of any other agency 
involved in the NEPA process.
    Upon request, BOEM will provide potential cooperating agencies with 
a

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draft Memorandum of Agreement that includes a schedule with critical 
action dates and milestones, mutual responsibilities, designated points 
of contact, and expectations for handling pre-decisional information.
    Agencies should also consider the ``Factors for Determining 
Cooperating Agency Status'' in Attachment 1 to CEQ's January 30, 2002, 
Memorandum for the Heads of Federal Agencies: Cooperating Agencies in 
Implementing the Procedural Requirements of the NEPA. These documents 
are available at: http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/nepa/regs/cooperating/cooperatingagenciesmemorandum.html. and: http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/nepa/regs/cooperating/cooperatingagencymemofactors.html.
    BOEM, as the lead agency, will not provide financial assistance to 
cooperating agencies. Even if an organization is not a cooperating 
agency, opportunities will exist to provide information and comments to 
BOEM during the normal public input phases of the NEPA process.

6. Comments

    Federal, state, local government agencies, tribal governments, and 
other interested parties are requested to send their written comments 
regarding environmental issues and the identification of reasonable 
alternatives related to the proposed action described in this Notice in 
one of the following ways:
    1. Electronically: http://www.regulations.gov. In the entry titled 
``Enter Keyword or ID,'' enter BOEM-2012-0090, then click ``search.'' 
Follow the instructions to submit public comments and view supporting 
and related materials available for this document.
    2. In written form, delivered by hand or by mail, enclosed in an 
envelope labeled ``Comments on North Carolina EA'' to Program Manager, 
Office of Renewable Energy Programs, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 
381 Elden Street, HM 1328, Herndon, Virginia 20170-4817.
    Comments should be submitted no later than January 28, 2013.

    Dated: December 10, 2012.
Tommy P. Beaudreau,
Director, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
[FR Doc. 2012-30091 Filed 12-12-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-MR-P