(August 8, 2019) Hartford, CT – Today, DEEP released the final “Report and Recommendations of the Commission on Environmental Standards for Minimizing and Mitigating Environmental and Commercial Impacts of the Construction and Operation of Offshore Wind Facilities.”
This past June, The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency (DEEP) Commissioner Katie Dykes convened the Commission on Environmental Standards (CES) – which included Audubon Connecticut's Director of Bird Conservation, Corrie Folsom-O’Keefe – to provide input on best practices for avoiding, minimizing and mitigating any impacts to wildlife, natural resources, and ecosystems during the construction and operation of eligible offshore wind facilities.
“We are pleased with the outcome of the report by the Commission on Environmental Standards (CES), and thankful that the staff of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) took the time to listen to the suggestions of many environmental nonprofits who provided scientific input during this process. The final recommendations reflect a lot of knowledge about birds, fisheries, wildlife, and ecosystems, and we expect that DEEP will include these environmental standards in their final Request for Proposals slated for release on August 15, 2019,” said Corrie Folsom-O’Keefe, director of bird conservation for Audubon Connecticut and Commission member.
Highlights of the Report recommendations related to birds and other wildlife include:
The Commission recommends a mitigation fund be used to offset economic losses or burdens to the commercial fishing industry, elements of the environment, and other stakeholders that arise from unavoidable impacts of offshore development. This fund should not be used in place of avoiding or minimizing impacts. Developers should follow the principle of first avoiding conflicts or impacts, then minimizing those that are unavoidable, mitigating the impacts from new development through appropriate use of communications and technology, and finally, only once those have been adhered to, considering compensation for any residual losses.
Mitigation funds may be used to offset impacts to the environment or sensitive fish and wildlife species found within the leasing area by supporting projects that improve conditions for such species outside the leasing area.
The Commission recommends that developers consult with experts to provide a site-specific inventory including all species at risk of impact, and that the status of each species (Federally and/or State Threatened, Endangered, Low Conservation Concern, etc.) be included. Developers should coordinate with agencies and institutions about methods that are consistent with existing datasets and are specific to the local environment. The Commission recommends, for each species grouping, that the developer provide information on a plan to anticipate and avoid risks to species arising from each stage of offshore development (pre-construction, construction, operational, transitional, and decommissioning), and all locations where project activities will occur.
The application also should address risk of direct mortality to birds and bats from collisions with wind turbines and other structures. The Commission suggests that the application include a description of how the Proposer will adapt turbine placement, and alter turbine operation and lighting, based on that assessment.
A sustained monitoring and research effort to fully understand the impacts of development. Because it is not possible to anticipate all potential impacts to the environment and commercial fishing operations that might arise from offshore wind development, the Commission recommends that the information obtained from ongoing studies serve as the basis for an adaptive operational plan, in which the developer, DEEP, and other stakeholders periodically assess information gathered and make “course corrections” to mitigation efforts.
This is an exciting moment for U.S. offshore wind energy development. Tapping into the wind power off our coasts offers a unique opportunity to develop the carbon-free energy we need to address climate change. Yet even with its immense long-term benefits, offshore wind power, like all types of energy development, poses risks to its immediate environment and must be developed responsibly for birds, other wildlife, and people.
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