Offshore wind has long been a goal among environmental justice communities as a potential way to alleviate climate impacts and provide needed jobs for the community. Once up and running, each of these commercial-scale projects saves the equivalent carbon emissions of a small natural gas power plant. However, as we are at the inception of the industry in the country, we owe it to local communities to look for ways to minimize impacts from these large multi-year construction projects.

We began this project as a point-by-point environmental impact assessment for a typical offshore wind farm and focused on potential impacts on environmental justice (EJ) areas. However, our analysis quickly turned towards more of a community engagement study. How can we effect a move toward meaningful partnerships with communities, and minimize potential impacts from the many large scale infrastructure projects that are in our domestic pipeline? How can developers collaborate and share best practices while guarding confidentialities and competitive advantages?

Ultimately, we hope to explore those topics and to begin developing answers to some of the issues facing both developers and communities in the OSW space. 

  • What are the projected greatest environmental impacts from these projects, and what degree of mitigation is reasonable for developers?
  • Can adaptive engagement help form lasting partnerships with community/EJ groups and what are the benefits of such relationships?
  • What pathways are there for industry to collaborate on these topics?

Towards that end, ESI recently developed a survey among stakeholder groups to examine potential impacts, options to mitigate those impacts, and ways to improve the quality of community engagement. Our goal was equal representation among survey groups – legal, developers, consultants, and EJ/Community groups. Our initial project included survey results from 19 stakeholders, with an unintended bias toward the industry side. Extensive efforts were made to expand the EJ survey group but were unsuccessful for a variety of reasons, mostly related to the capacity of those groups to take on another project at that time. 

We want more input and will give everyone the chance to comment on the paper or submit a survey. As we state in the below paper, there is a spectrum of public engagement, with mandated minimum requirements on one end and an adaptive engagement model tailoring each approach to respective communities on the other. We argue for the latter and project that as the likely outcome in many states. 

“Your community engagement model should mirror the level of your internal processes, the more complex internally, the more creative and efforted externally.

– Chris Whitehead, QEP, CESM (Outreach project creator)

Please see the link below for a copy of “Minimizing and Mitigating Potential Environmental Justice Impacts from Offshore Wind Port Facilities through Adaptive Public Engagement: Sharing Best Practices”, the lead article on Lexis Nexis for their February 2022 newsletter.

We invite you to read and to submit comments on the paper here.

Please see a copy of our original stakeholder survey available through Survey Monkey here. We will keep this open invitation open to accept submittals for as long as it takes to expand the survey group. Once completed we will then rerun the numbers and compare results among stakeholder groups. All survey submittals are 100% confidential.

2022 IPF: April 26-28, 2022, Atlantic City, New JerseyThis project has been accepted as a panel at the International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum being held on April 26-28, 2022in Atlantic City, NJ. The presentation will discuss potential next steps for collaboration on this issue.

The moderator, Chris Whitehead, QEP, CESM, leads the air practice for Enviro-Sciences, Inc., based in New Jersey.  His recent work has focused on offshore wind permitting, environmental justice regulation, and climate change impacts and indicators. If you have any questions on the project or on environmental justice policy he can be reached at cwhitehead@enviro-sciences.com.