Interior, FERC to cooperate on Outer Continental Shelf renewables

The heads of the Interior Department and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced March 17 they will cooperate to regulate renewable energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf, with FERC retaining authority over ocean power projects.

Interior’s Minerals Management Service oversees more than 1.7 billion acres on the Outer Continental Shelf, an area roughly three-fourths the size of the entire United States. FERC also has claimed jurisdiction for ocean energy projects proposed for the Outer Continental Shelf.

In February, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said his department would expedite an overdue renewable energy rulemaking for the Outer Continental Shelf. (HNN 2/19/09) Salazar and acting FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff issued a joint statement March 17 confirming their intent to work together.

Under the agreement, the Interior Department will have jurisdiction over offshore wind and solar energy projects, while the FERC will oversee offshore projects that generate electricity from wave and tidal currents.

Staff of both agencies have been directed to develop a memorandum of understanding that formally spells out the process for issuing permits and licenses for offshore renewable energy projects. In the meantime, the agencies issued a joint statement.

�The Interior Department’s responsibility for the permitting and development of renewable energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf is broad,� the statement said. �In particular, the Department of the Interior has permitting and development authority over wind power projects that use offshore resources beyond state waters.

�Interior’s authority does not diminish existing responsibilities that other agencies have with regard to the Outer Continental Shelf. In that regard, under the Federal Power Act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has the statutory responsibility to oversee the development of hydropower resources in navigable waters of the United States… FERC will have the primary responsibility to manage the licensing of such projects in offshore waters pursuant to the Federal Power Act, using procedures developed for hydropower licenses, and with the active involvement of relevant federal land and resource agencies, including the Department of the Interior.�

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