FERC, Minerals Management agency to decide who rules the waves

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service are working to resolve disagreement over which federal agency is responsible for permitting ocean energy projects, FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller said.

Moeller told the National Hydropower Association March 17 that negotiations are ongoing between the agencies regarding jurisdiction over ocean sites. (HNN 3/19/07) He said FERC is taking resolution of the dispute very seriously.

Director Ann Miles of the Division of Hydropower Licensing in FERC’s Office of Energy Projects, told the NHA annual conference that the agencies have talked at high levels to set aside the dispute over jurisdiction. Miles added the agencies might work together on a memorandum of understanding, but added there is no schedule for working out agreement.

Earlier this year, MMS challenged the authority of FERC to issue preliminary permits and licenses for wave energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf. MMS first raised the question of jurisdiction Jan. 30 in a protest filed in proceedings for a preliminary permit application for 300-MW Coos County Offshore Wave Energy (No. 12752). (HNN 2/8/07)

MMS invites comment on draft program EIS

MMS is calling for comments by May 21 on a preliminary draft programmatic environmental impact statement for alternative energy development and production and alternative use of facilities on the Outer Continental Shelf.

The programmatic EIS is to evaluate issues associated with the program and alternative use project development, including potential monitoring, testing, commercial development, operations, and decommissioning activities in federal waters of the Outer Continental Shelf. The Outer Continental Shelf begins three to nine nautical miles off coastal shorelines and extends to about 200 nautical miles offshore.

The programmatic EIS is being developed concurrently with a proposed rulemaking on alternative energy uses of the Outer Continental Shelf. The EIS is to examine the potential environmental consequences of implementing the program created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. It will be used to establish initial measures to mitigate environmental consequences.

In its March 16 call for comments, MMS said its EIS analysis would focus on the potential environmental effects of implementing the program, and associated rulemaking. Under the program, MMS would have jurisdiction over Outer Continental Shelf projects, including wave, ocean current, offshore wind, offshore solar, and hydrogen generation energy.

The draft programmatic EIS and associated documents are on the OCS Alternative Energy and Alternate User Programmatic EIS Internet site, http://ocsenergy.anl.gov/index.cfm. MMS will accept written comments postmarked by May 21 and electronic comments received by May 21. The service also plans to hold public hearings to accept comments.

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