US Discussing Oil & Gas-Like OCS Leasing Programme for Offshore Renewables

On 26 June, the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Natural Resources will hold a legislative hearing on a bill that would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to provide for a leasing programme for offshore renewable energy.

If enacted, the bill would set up a National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Renewable Energy Leasing Program, alongside the country's existing National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program, which would bring certainty to offshore wind developers and other stakeholders.

"The Secretary shall prepare, periodically revise, and maintain a leasing program for the production of energy from sources other than oil and gas, and for supporting such production and the transportation or transmission of such energy," one of the amendments to the OCS Lands Act reads.

The bill requires the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to publish a regular leasing schedule and establishes a four-year leasing programme that schedules offshore wind lease sales, detailing the size, timing, and location of leasing activity. The National OCS Renewable Energy Leasing Program Act would also require DOI and the Department of Defence (DOD) to update the Memorandum of Agreement between the two authorities that governs their operations relationship on the OCS to include leases, easements, and rights-of-way pertaining to offshore wind leases.

Currently, there is no scheduled process for holding wind leases on the OCS. The process begins with potential developers identifying parcels that may technically and economically support an offshore wind farm. Then, DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), coordinates with taskforces in affected States, and begins establishing parameters of the lease, the hearing memo for the bill explains.

At this time, the process takes an estimated four years to execute a lease sale, and about seven years after the sale to begin construction. The environmental review requirements are completed after the lease is executed, adding uncertainty regarding milestone completions and presenting considerable legal exposure to the leaseholders, according to the bill memo.

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