New England for Offshore Wind advocates for a clean energy future where inclusive stakeholder processes, health and equity considerations, and wildlife and environmental protection are essential components of offshore wind development. Offshore wind can be developed in a responsible way that respects our local communities, our environment, and our wildlife – and it should be.
Wildlife & Environmental Protection
Climate change poses an existential threat and is already causing profound impacts to wildlife and their habitats as well as to local communities. The waters off the coast of New England are among the fastest warming worldwide, impacting thousands of species – from plankton that support marine food chains to fish, shellfish, whales, and birds. For species already on the brink – like the Piping Plover and North Atlantic right whale – these changes are even more devastating. Responsible development of renewable energy such as offshore wind is essential to reduce carbon emissions and climate change impacts.
The urgency of the transition to clean energy must be matched by a strong commitment to fill important gaps and to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts on wildlife and the environment. This includes, for example:
- Consistent requirements for best management practices for environmental protection based on the best available science
- Development of technology as well ongoing monitoring and data gathering through aerial surveys and acoustic detection systems. All data must be shared publicly.
- Comprehensive and cumulative impact assessments for environmental ecosystems and marine resources
To ensure responsible development of offshore wind, site locations must be thoroughly researched and monitored before, during, and after construction. Many innovative technologies exist or are under development to help ensure environmental protection and minimize habitat disturbance from offshore wind. With a collaborative and science-based approach, data on habitats and wildlife use can inform siting and impact assessments, and ongoing and coordinated scientific research can inform adaptive management of this emerging industry.
Inclusive Stakeholder Engagement
Another crucial aspect of offshore wind’s responsible development includes inclusive stakeholder engagement and consultation with tribal nations. The ocean is a shared resource with many uses – commercial, recreational, and traditional. Any large-scale construction project affects surrounding areas, whether on- or offshore. Following best practices for planning and siting of offshore wind and onshore infrastructure is crucial to minimizing impacts and maximizing benefits to local communities and existing ocean users.
State and federal agencies as well as offshore wind developers all have a role to play in engaging coastal communities, industries, ocean users, and other interests. Key considerations and concerns from all stakeholders – especially those who may be most impacted – must be taken into account during planning, development, and operations to make sure this vital resource is responsibly developed.
Examples of inclusive stakeholder engagement include:
- Public meetings and comment periods to ensure transparent and holistic planning processes that reduce barriers to collaboration
- Consultations with commercial, environmental, and traditional interests – including tribal nations and host communities – regarding the economic, environmental, technological and workforce impacts of offshore wind facilities and operations
Through inclusive stakeholder engagement and transparent planning, offshore wind can be developed in a way that minimizes impacts and maximizes benefits to communities and the environment.