Deputy Director, and currently Acting Director of BOEM, Dr. Cruickshank oversees the administration of programs that manage the development of the Nation’s offshore resources in an environmentally and economically responsible way. These programs include leasing, plan administration, environmental studies, National Environmental Policy Act analysis, resource evaluation, economic analysis and the Renewable Energy Program.
He is a career public servant, for over 30 years. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Geological Sciences from Cornell University and a Doctorate in Mineral Economics from the Pennsylvania State University.
BOEM’s offshore leasing strategy is the backbone of the agency’s roadmap to develop the US Offshore Wind Industry. The US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) offers a plentiful wind resource on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, near to where its energy consumers reside and work. This is an obvious advantage when the alternatives involve long-range transmission or utilising land resources.
However, the ocean has a lot of different uses and BOEM sees itself as an important player in reconciling these interests, such as commercial and recreational fishing, vessel traffic, and military mission needs, as well as important environmental considerations. This is why engaging stakeholders – including federal, state and local agencies, fishing communities, and the public – throughout our processes is such an essential part of their renewable energy program.
Walter Cruickshank says, “We are depending on a regional approach for offshore development, and heavily rely on working with our state partners through our intergovernmental renewable energy task forces, stakeholder engagement, especially fishing communities, military, and navigation, as well as additional research to understand the potential for environmental and socio-economic impacts. We are working with of our government partners and key stakeholders to ensure BOEM has the most recent and best available information to make informed decisions while implementing an all-of-the-above energy strategy.”
Do you think the developers are moving forward too fast compared to the needs of regulators to ensure that all stakeholders are heard and their concerns balanced?
Dr Cruickshank says, “Recently, coastal states have announced significant increases in renewable energy goals, coupled with growing competitive interest in our offshore wind leases. At BOEM, we try to meet with lessees on a regular basis to keep their projects on track.” He continues, “At the same time, we all recognize that the ocean is a busy place, and so we must consider other uses, such as commercial and recreational fishing, vessel traffic, and military mission needs, in addition to important environmental considerations. As such, we must work hard to engage all of our partners and key stakeholders – including federal, state and local agencies, fishing communities, and the public – to find a path forward that promotes responsible offshore wind development, while reducing potential impacts to other ocean users.”
The supply chain is going to be a major factor in the development of the US industry. Do you see any bottlenecks occurring in the supply chain?
He replies, “Developing a robust domestic supply chain and supporting infrastructure is vital for the United States to realize the benefits of offshore wind energy. Industry has told us that more predictable leasing is necessary to secure a domestic supply chain here in the United States. We are committed to working with our stakeholders to make this a reality.”
Here Dr. Cruickshank identifies a particular issue – leasing – as a potential bottleneck. It is helpful that BOEM are working to ensure that this problem is alleviated.
What are the risks from your perspective?
“Any offshore development must consider how activities can affect both ocean users and the marine environment. That is why we are working with of our government partners and key stakeholders to ensure BOEM has the most recent and best available information to make informed decisions while implementing our energy strategy.”
He gives this example, “We recently signed a 10-year Memorandum of Agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance. The agreement brings local and regional fishing interests together with federal regulators to collaborate on the science and process of offshore wind energy development on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. We believe this agreement will help the fishing community to provide meaningful input on how offshore wind energy development can impact ocean users, so that we can reduce the potential for such impacts.”
Dr. Cruikshank says that BOEM is aware of the potential challenges of the Jones Act and is committed to exploring them in the future, utilising the experience and lessons learned from the Oil and Gas industry.
BOEM’s overall conclusion is that their continued support of a robust and sustainable offshore wind energy industry in the United States will require a thorough understanding of the drivers that make an area more or less suitable for development. This process must be informed by continued feedback from their stakeholders as well as ongoing research to understand the potential for environmental and socio-economic impacts.
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