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Lawmakers seek special office for offshore wind regulation

Even before the Gulf spill, [NRG-Bluewater president Peter] Mandelstam was worried it would take more than seven years to get permits for the offshore wind farm. Now, he's concerned Interior's focus on oil and gas, and the restructuring of the department, will cause further delays.

WASHINGTON - Members of Delaware's congressional delegation and other lawmakers have asked the Interior Department to temporarily create a special office to regulate offshore wind.

They fear renewable energy development will be compromised by ongoing departmental reforms related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

In a letter Wednesday to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the lawmakers said Salazar's push to reform the former Minerals Management Service, now known as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, is "laudable and necessary."

But they asked that offshore wind and other renewable energy projects be regulated outside the bureau, "at least temporarily," because "minimizing administrative delay is vital" to the success of offshore wind projects.

"While BOEMRE is focused on the critical task of transforming itself into a more effective, transparent regulator, the progress the department has made in promoting offshore wind must continue," they wrote.

The letter is signed by Delaware Democratic Sens. Tom Carper and Ted Kaufman, and Republican Rep. Mike Castle, along with two other senators... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

WASHINGTON - Members of Delaware's congressional delegation and other lawmakers have asked the Interior Department to temporarily create a special office to regulate offshore wind.

They fear renewable energy development will be compromised by ongoing departmental reforms related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

In a letter Wednesday to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the lawmakers said Salazar's push to reform the former Minerals Management Service, now known as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, is "laudable and necessary."

But they asked that offshore wind and other renewable energy projects be regulated outside the bureau, "at least temporarily," because "minimizing administrative delay is vital" to the success of offshore wind projects.

"While BOEMRE is focused on the critical task of transforming itself into a more effective, transparent regulator, the progress the department has made in promoting offshore wind must continue," they wrote.

The letter is signed by Delaware Democratic Sens. Tom Carper and Ted Kaufman, and Republican Rep. Mike Castle, along with two other senators and four House members.

Salazar renamed the MMS and is breaking it into three divisions last month as part of several reforms to promote stronger oversight of offshore oil and gas operations.

He also toughened safety requirements for oil and gas lease-holders and operators on the Outer Continental Shelf, and he ordered a temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling.

Salazar said Wednesday he's reviewing a plan to restructure Interior's offshore energy management responsibilities and is seeking input from congressional leaders. As part of the plan, renewable energy sources, along with oil and gas, would be subject to regulation under all three of the newly created divisions. The transition could begin as early as October and be completed in 2011.

Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said the department is reviewing the lawmakers' letter but will move ahead with the plan announced Wednesday.

NRG-Bluewater president Peter Mandelstam said, "it's appropriate" to temporarily separate oil and gas regulation from offshore wind.

His company has a contract with Delmarva Power to sell electricity from its proposed offshore wind farm about 11 miles off Delaware's coast. The company has a lease for the site where its meteorological tower will be located, but it needs permits from several agencies, including the Interior Department, to build the tower.

Even before the Gulf spill, Mandelstam was worried it would take more than seven years to get permits for the offshore wind farm. Now, he's concerned Interior's focus on oil and gas, and the restructuring of the department, will cause further delays.

"Their time and attention, understandably so, is going to be in the reorganization, in the congressional investigations (into the oil spill) and in the lawsuits," Mandelstam said. "All of that doesn't bode well for a streamlined review of offshore wind."

It took nine years before Cape Wind won the Interior Department's approval, which came in April, to build its wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts, company spokesman Mark Rogers said. Rogers wouldn't comment on the lawmakers' proposal, but he agreed there's a need to consolidate and expedite federal reviews of offshore wind projects.

"If a review takes nine years like it did for Cape Wind, or even six years, that's too long, given the priority this country has to develop clean energy that is sustainable and inexhaustible, to put a lot of people to work, to improve air quality, to mitigate climate change," he said. "It really calls for a more expedited processing of these applications because otherwise we risk offshore wind projects facing a tougher road ... than conventional fossil fuels (and) power plants now face."


Source: http://www.dailyrecord.com/...

JUL 15 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/27250-lawmakers-seek-special-office-for-offshore-wind-regulation
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