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Ocean Planning in the Northeast

Website for the Northeast Regional Planning Body Northeast RPB Projects Energy


Energy-related topics in New England’s marine environment often focus on infrastructure for fossil fuel sources (such as natural gas pipelines) or electricity transmission and the potential for renewable energy. Such issues often involve complex economic and environmental considerations, which in recent years have also incorporated topics such as climate change. Understanding the often quickly changing energy picture is an important aspect of regional ocean planning in New England.

What’s Been Done

Three working sessions for members of the energy sector in New England were held in December 2012. These sessions focused on: 1) offshore wind, 2) marine hydrokinetic, and 3) gas and infrastructure.

The purpose of these sessions was to learn more about key issues facing these components of the energy sector in New England, anticipated changes in coming years, and the potential role of regional ocean planning to address issues and opportunities. The working sessions focused on several key topics: permitting and governmental coordination, data needs, and other sector-specific challenges. Summaries from these working sessions (PDF) (23pp, 618K) are available.

Drawing on these conversations and other information, an energy expert prepared a white paper summarizing the state of the energy sector in the region, with a focus on the marine component. In 2015, this white paper was updated to reflect changes since 2013.

Industry representatives have also reviewed maps of existing energy-related infrastructure. Ocean planning staff have revised draft maps, incorporating industry suggestions and changes, for inclusion in the Data Portal.

The maps, data sets, and white papers created during this process will feed into the ocean planning process being implemented by the Northeast Regional Planning Body.

Key Highlights/Takeaways

Key energy-related issues to consider in regional ocean planning:

  • Regional baseline information on natural resources and other human uses would be useful to the energy industry. Opportunities exist to enhance the consistency of data development efforts, and to develop data products that provide certainty and help potential developers with risk management and decision-making. The Data Portal could be an effective, powerful tool to provide regional information to meet these opportunities.
  • Enhanced inter-governmental coordination is needed for more efficient, predictable regulatory decisions.
  • Stakeholder groups should be convened to discuss regional transmission issues, which are critical to the growth of the offshore renewable energy sector.

What’s Next

  • Ocean planning staff are working to develop more accurate data to characterize the energy sector’s use of ocean waters in the Northeast, including the status of proposed renewable energy projects and planning areas and the location of existing energy infrastructure.
  • Agencies and industry representatives will also be asked to consider industry-related issues as they relate to regional ocean planning goals and objectives.


Northeast RPB News

November 15 Northeast RPB Data Workshop Remote Access Webinar Available

November 14, 2017— Webinar available for remote access to November 15 RPB Data Workshop.


Ocean Planning Timeline

  • November 2012 Inaugural Northeast RPB Meeting: Develop common understanding about the RPB; provide context and lay foundation of regional ocean planning; engage stakeholders and the public, discuss initial focus.
    April 2013 Northeast RPB Meeting: Northeast RPB Meeting: Identify draft goals for regional ocean planning and mechanisms for receiving public input about those draft goals; provide opportunities for public input about topics under consideration.
    May/June 2013 Public Comment Meetings: Ten public meetings throughout New England to discuss draft regional ocean planning goals.
  • January Northeast RPB Meeting: approve goals and objectives; move forward on related tasks.
    May/June Public Engagement: Natural Resources Workshops and focused engagement to discuss progress toward goals of effective Decision-Making and Healthy Ocean and Coastal Ecosystems.
    June Northeast RPB Meeting: Review progress toward all goals.
    Fall Public meetings/workshops and Northeast RPB meeting: Feedback on progress toward each goal.
  • Spring Stakeholder Forum: Review progress on the use of marine life and ocean use data, regulatory coordination, and future scenario development.
    June Northeast RPB Meeting: Review approach to developing draft plan by considering agency use of ocean plan data products; discuss draft outline for regional ocean plan.
    Fall Northeast RPB meeting and public meetings: Review revised products for each goal; discuss future work of the RPB.
  • Winter EBM Working Group: Review progress on Draft Northeast Ocean Plan, marine life and habitat data product development, including IEAs Framework.
    Spring Northeast RPB Meeting (via webinar): Release Draft Plan for public review.
    Summer Collect public comment on the Draft Plan through public meetings and other opportunities.
    Fall September public webinar to review changes to the Draft Plan and October submittal of revised Plan to the National Ocean Council.
  • Winter Northeast RPB members and federal principals of the National Ocean Council sign Plan Adoption Memo.
    Spring See Events and Meetings
    April Informational webinar to prepare for stakeholder forum.
    May Stakeholder forum and RPB public meeting.

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