FERC issues interim policy for permitting ocean projects

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission established an interim process Feb. 15 for handling preliminary permit applications for wave, current, and in-stream hydropower technologies.

FERC called for public comment on how it should process preliminary permit applications for those technologies, and how the commission should enforce permits once they are issued.

�Our action today announcing an interim policy while seeking comment on alternative approaches shows that we are dedicated to demonstrating regulatory flexibility with respect to development of these promising new hydroelectric technologies,� Chairman Joseph Kelliher said.

Kelliher said FERC has seen interest in new hydroelectric technologies grow over the past year. Since March 2006, he said, more than 40 preliminary permit applications for such projects have been filed.

FERC staff has issued 11 preliminary permits for the projects: three for proposed tidal energy projects in California, New York, and Washington; and eight for proposed ocean current projects off the coast of Florida. FERC also has received its first license application for a wave energy project, AquaEnergy Group Ltd.’s 1-MW Makah Bay Wave Energy project (No. 12751), offshore of Clallam County, Wash. (HNN 10/27/06)

FERC seeks comments on several alternatives for reviewing permit applications. Comments will be due 60 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register. The notice (RM07-8) also will be available from the e-library system on FERC’s Internet site, www.ferc.gov.

FERC initially opts for �stricter scrutiny�

Specifically, the commission said it wants to know if it should:
maintain the standard preliminary permit review process; provide stricter scrutiny of permit applications and limit permit boundaries to prevent �site-banking� and promote competition; or decline to issue preliminary permits for the new technologies.

Until FERC determines how it will review permit applications for the technologies, the commission said it would use the �stricter scrutiny� alternative approach, which addresses issues raised at a December 2006 technical conference. (HNN 12/8/06) FERC conducted that meeting to explore environmental, financial, and regulatory issues associated with new hydropower technologies.

�In my view, our interim policy supports continued development of this new technology, while guarding against site banking,� Kelliher said.

Jurisdiction of wave energy projects is a matter of dispute between FERC and the Interior Department, and the issue was raised at FERC’s technical conference. Interior’s Minerals Management Service is challenging FERC’s authority to issue permits and licenses to study, build, and operate wave energy projects on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. (HNN 2/8/07)

FERC applies new process to 50-MW Reedsport off Oregon

FERC announced Feb. 15 it has applied its interim approach for the first time to an application to study the 50-MW Reedsport OPT Wave Park project (No. 12713), proposed for a site in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon.

In addition to typical six-month progress reports, FERC is requiring permit holder Reedsport OPT Wave Park LLC to file within 45 days of the order a schedule of activities to be performed and target dates for completing the activities. Consultations with federal, state, and local agencies, and other interested parties, also must take place.

FERC said the permit could be canceled if the commission finds significant progress is not evident in the periodic reports, or if the permit holder fails to comply with any other conditions.

A preliminary permit preserves the right of the permit holder to have the first priority in applying for a license for the project being studied. A preliminary permit, which typically is for three years, requires the permit holder to file progress reports on a regular basis. It does not authorize construction.

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