The last half-century has seen a push towards renewable energy development, due to geopolitics, economics, and a growing concern over the effects of climate change. The 1940s heralded the age of nuclear power development. Regulators were quick to subsidize the new industry, and to ensure the oversight was given to a single federal agency—the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Nuclear power was poised to provide abundant, carbon-free electricity, but the industry has struggled in the last few decades due to the stigma of nuclear accidents, cumbersome bureaucracy, exorbitant expenses, and cheap energy alternatives like natural gas. The race for a grid powered by nuclear energy has waned while the renewable revolution is coming to full fruition. Specifically, the development of offshore wind (OSW) power has seen a massive surge around the world in the last decade. The U.S. is lagging behind other countries in its quest for large commercial-scale OSW energy. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is the federal regulatory body responsible for OSW development in federal waters, but does not have the level of authority of its nuclear counterpart, the NRC. In the current climate, OSW has the advantage of being a relatively popular and potentially viable large-scale electricity source. However, OSW faces significant local opposition, and notable delays in the licensing process. Cost, regulatory delays, and public opposition have dealt blows to both the nuclear and wind energy industries. Nuclear power has the benefit of time and lessons learned, and relatively centralized federal control, which have helped in streamlining its licensing process—although the last two-and-a-half decades have seen the addition of only two new reactors to the U.S. commercial industry. OSW, a relatively new sector in the power industry, also has the benefit of nuclear power’s lessons learned. OSW can potentially avoid nuclear power’s pitfalls by utilizing strong public engagement programs addressing local concerns early in the process. Furthermore, if Congress modelled BOEM’s regulatory structure after the NRC, giving BOEM more centralized power, and addressed significant delays attributable to OSW’s environmental review process, coordination between federal, state, and local entities could be improved, stabilizing and expediting the leasing and permitting process. These measures could ease the path for OSW development, boosting an important industry in the fight against climate change. Renewable energy, OSW in particular, is part of the solution to the climate crisis, and it requires public support, favorable policy, and a clear regulatory path
Kelsey E. Gagnon,
Atomic Energy and Offshore Wind: The Struggle to Fight Climate Change and the Cost to be Clean,
Ocean & Coastal L.J.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/oclj/vol26/iss1/3