We are committed to protecting the marine environment in which we operate.
The offshore wind industry adheres to stringent marine mammal mitigation measures – stronger regulation than any other marine industry in the Atlantic. There is heavy vessel traffic around the populous East Coast, and particularly in the New York and New Jersey coastal area, which includes major shipping lanes and various types of large commercial freight. Offshore wind vessels make up less than 1% of that marine traffic.
We take action to protect marine mammals through:
- Collaboration with marine scientists – By working closely with organizations like Wildlife Conservation Society and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the marine environment is carefully monitored using acoustic receivers to record the presence of whales. We partner with New England Aquarium’s tracking program of highly migratory marine species.
- Implementation of sophisticated technology – We deploy passive acoustic monitoring buoys with the Empire Wind lease area to obtain near real-time whale acoustics.
When marine wildlife is observed, the following measures are taken:
• If marine mammals are observed while a vessel is underway, the vessel must attempt to remain parallel to the animal’s course, avoid excessive speed, or abrupt changes in direction until the animal has left the area. If marine mammals are sighted within the relevant separation distance, the vessel must reduce speed and shift the engine to neutral, not engaging the engines until animals are clear of the area.
- Geophysical survey equipment must be shut down when marine mammals are observed approaching or within “Exclusion Zones” ~1,600 ft (500 m) for North Atlantic right whales or ~300 ft (100 m) for all other species).
• Independent and NMFS-approved Protected Species Observers (PSOs) on duty to enforce Exclusion Zones, document all marine mammal observations, and report to NOAA Fisheries on marine mammal observations.
• Vessel speeds reduced to 10 knots or less when mother/calf pairs, pods, or large assemblages of whales/dolphins observed near the vessel.
• Vessels must maintain a minimum separation distance of ~1,600 ft (500 m) from right whales and ~300 ft (100 m) from all other whale species.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Process
Our first step was to submit a Site Assessment Plan (SAP) for Empire Wind to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in June 2018. The SAP describes initial activities necessary to characterize a lease site, such as wind resource measurements using meteorological buoys, meteorological and oceanographic (metocean) data collection, and requirements for testing new technology.
The next step was to submit the Construction and Operations Plan (COP) for the project, which describes all the activities necessary for the construction, operation, and decommissioning of the proposed offshore wind farm(s) on the lease.
The COP also outlines the environmental, social, and technical information needed for BOEM to undertake Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) as part of its review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Empire Wind’s COP was submitted in January 2020, with an updated version submitted in June 2021.
As part of the ESIA, a wide range of potentially affected parties, identified through stakeholder engagement and scoping, will be able to participate in information gathering, site investigations, site-specific environmental surveys, and impact assessments.
- Empire Wind Construction and Operations Plan – BOEM website
- Environmental Mitigation Plan – Empire Wind Project
- Empire Wind Article VII compliance
We are conducting numerous environmental studies to learn how to best coexist with marine life and birds in the lease area. We are committed to sharing our data with all stakeholders and the public and answering your questions. We will post studies and data here as we continue the permitting process.