The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said it was seeking public comment on draft environmental assessments related to the issuance of leases in areas designated for wind energy off the New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia coasts.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who dubbed the program "smart from the start," said the program would help interested companies find the best place for wind energy development.
"With today's announcement, we are taking another step toward ensuring that renewable development along the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf becomes a reality," he said in a statement.
Leases awarded through the program don't necessarily authorize construction or operations but target projects for further environmental and public review.
"If leases are issued in these geographic areas, we will conduct a thorough environmental analysis of each proposed commercial project," said BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich.