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Wind Farm becomes part of MMS hearings

WASHINGTON, DC -- When the Minerals Management Service of the US Department of Interior kicked off its national scoping process for "Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Renewable Energy and Alternative Use" on Thursday, May 18, the Cape Wind controversy immediately moved to center stage.

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) is conducting ten "scoping sessions" across the US, soliciting public comments about what factors the agency should consider in devising regulations governing offshore renewable energy facilities and alternative uses for existing oil and natural gas drilling or production platforms.

MMS is designated as the lead agency for the OCS Renewable Energy and Alternate Use Program under Section 388 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

The agency has had responsibility for regulating offshore oil and gas platforms since 1982.

The current process will result in a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and is not site specific, according to MMS deputy director Walter D. Cruickshank, who emphasized "programmatic."

Where Cape Wind fits in

"This process doesn't specifically address Cape Wind or other proposals," Mr. Cruickshank told CCT before Thursday's hearing. "We're kicking off a broader, generic foundation for what we are required by the law to do.

"Cape Wind is a separate process and will have its own environmental review, also as allowed by the law, although they will have to factor in the relevant considerations," he... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
The Minerals Management Service (MMS) is conducting ten "scoping sessions" across the US, soliciting public comments about what factors the agency should consider in devising regulations governing offshore renewable energy facilities and alternative uses for existing oil and natural gas drilling or production platforms.
 
MMS is designated as the lead agency for the OCS Renewable Energy and Alternate Use Program under Section 388 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

The agency has had responsibility for regulating offshore oil and gas platforms since 1982.
 
The current process will result in a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and is not site specific, according to MMS deputy director Walter D. Cruickshank, who emphasized "programmatic."

Where Cape Wind fits in

"This process doesn't specifically address Cape Wind or other proposals," Mr. Cruickshank told CCT before Thursday's hearing. "We're kicking off a broader, generic foundation for what we are required by the law to do.
 
"Cape Wind is a separate process and will have its own environmental review, also as allowed by the law, although they will have to factor in the relevant considerations," he continued.
 
"They will have to bear the burden themselves of meeting all the criteria," Mr. Cruickshank said, acknowledging the apparent contradiction of his agency not yet having relevant criteria in place.
 
This is precisely where the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound focused its testimony.

Alliance moves to slow down approval process
 
An attorney testifying for the Alliance became the first speaker in the nation to offer oral testimony to MMS in the current phase of their offshore renewable energy deliberations.
 
Sandra Young, identifying herself as the staff attorney for the Alliance, first praised the Draft EIS process MMS is conducting, then immediately blasted provisions allowing the federal agency to continue its separate review of Cape Wind's proposal.
 
"We must strongly object to the review of any individual project, including Cape Wind, prior to completion of the programmatic EIS and the development of regulations," Ms. Young said.
 
"Any such premature review undermines the value and purpose of a national program and the programmatic EIS," she continued. "It also significantly obstructs efforts to protect valuable coastal resources and to fully engage with the public as required by law."
 
In previous filings with MMS and the Interior Department, Cape Wind has contended it should not have to begin its consideration process again or have to wait until generic national programmatic standards are established.
 
And the legislation mandating MMS oversight of the offshore renewable energy siting process specifically relieved Cape Wind, and a Long Island, NY wind farm proposal, of having to resubmit their applications.
 
Cape Wind and the Alliance disagree on what the exemption in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, specifically Section 388-D, means. The Alliance's attorneys told CCT on Thursday that it simply exempts Cape Wind from having to file new paperwork. Cape Wind, in its previous filings, says that during its five-year effort it has already garnered approvals from agencies previously charged with offshore structure siting and should be allowed to go forward.
 
Beginning this coming week and continuing through June 8, teams from MMS and their EIS contractor, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), will be fanning out across the country for nine more public meetings, soliciting comments about what criteria should be considered by MMS in future offshore renewable energy project siting.
 
Details and sites of future meetings, and MMS background information relevant to the scoping process, are available at a web site here [2]. Comments also will be received at the web site, or by mail, on this phase of the OCS renewable energy program rulemaking process through July 5, 2006.
 
MMS officials told CCT that while their projected schedule calls for issuance of final rules by September, 2007, that deadline is "soft" and may be extended, depending on what kinds of issues are raised in this first round of public sessions.

Next MMS meeting May 25 in Dedham
 
The Boston area public offshore renewable energy scoping session is set for Thursday, May 25, at the Holiday Inn Boston-Dedham Hotel and Conference Center.
 
The session held May 18, in the Washington, DC, suburb of Herndon, VA, attracted approximately thirty people. The few speakers and most of those attending were lawyers, energy industry professionals and government officials. Only one member of the public not associated with offshore energy development or advocacy addressed the gathering.
 
Besides wind power, other ocean energy advocates testified before MMS, generally in support of the MMS process but concerned that demonstration projects, some of which are reportedly nearly ready for development, would be delayed until a final rulemaking is issued.
 
Carolyn Elefant, CEO and legislative director of the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition, told CCT she represents a small, year-old trade association of ocean energy technologies other than wind.
 
"We are representing about sixteen entities, including a few law firms and several companies or developers in some cases ready to proceed," Ms. Elefant said. "We have wave energy project developers from the UK, an American firm looking at marine current turbines (basically, an underwater, slow-moving rotating 'propellor' that harvests energy from ocean currents), and a very small project using small buoys that produce energy from wave motion."
 
"Our concern, and the reason we generally support the way MMS is going about its process, is that we have to be sure that potential offshore energy sites are licensed to the best use for that site," Ms. Elefant said.
 
"For example, if a technology used in a particular project can develop only five megawatts, and another technology at that site might produce more energy or involve less risk to the environment, we believe this should be taken into account when site licenses are granted," she said.
 
Web references:
MMS Draft EIS process [3]
Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition [4]
Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound  [5]
Cape Wind Associates [6]


Source: http://www.capecodtoday.com...

MAY 21 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/2708-wind-farm-becomes-part-of-mms-hearings
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