U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) on Tuesday announced the release of a discussion draft for the Create Offshore Leadership and Livelihood Alignment By Operating Responsibly And Together for the Environment (COLLABORATE) Act. The legislation aims to enhance the offshore wind development process, bringing new sources of affordable clean energy to the grid.
The COLLABORATE Act focuses on improving permitting, coordination, and cooperation among agencies, developers, and stakeholders. It introduces a holistic approach to offshore wind transmission and provides support for fisheries and other potentially affected stakeholders, including the establishment of a compensation fund.
Senator Whitehouse emphasized the importance of harnessing the abundant resource of offshore wind to meet climate and clean energy goals. He drew attention to the success of the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island, the first offshore wind farm in the United States, as a model for development.
Key provisions in the discussion draft include:
Timely Permitting, Coordination, and Engagement:
Creation of a Director for Offshore Wind in the White House
Establishment of a five-year leasing schedule for offshore wind, regularly updated
Requirement for federal agency engagement with stakeholders in designated areas
Conducting impact studies ahead of assessing commercial interest in a lease area
Cataloging outreach and feedback in filing a Construction and Operations Plan
Setting a timeframe for issuing outstanding agency authorizations
Initiation of a rule for permitting offshore wind transmission
Identification of transmission cable corridors in the national interest
Establishment of standards for integrating different offshore wind transmission technologies
Funding for research and development of an integrated offshore wind transmission network
Establishment of a fund and formula for compensation to affected stakeholders
Creation of a gear loss program
Implementation of grant programs for research on offshore wind’s effects on fisheries and supporting coexistence
Additionally, the COLLABORATE Act complements Senator Whitehouse’s RISEE Act, aiming to create a dedicated funding stream from offshore wind development for coastal protection and resiliency.
Senator Whitehouse encourages stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposal, emphasizing the need to balance the interests of various ocean users and avoid bureaucratic delays.
In a related development, the Preservation Society of Newport County in November 2023 appealed federal agency decisions approving massive wind farms off the coast of Rhode Island. The appeals, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, assert that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) failed to comply with required levels of review under federal environmental and historic preservation laws. The appeals seek to preserve historic views from industrial-scale wind development, emphasizing the importance of due process mandated by federal law.
The Preservation Society, while supportive of green energy, expresses concerns about the impact of the approved wind turbines, including their height and proximity to historic landmarks, and calls for a more careful and legally compliant permitting process.
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