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MMS Developing Alternate Energy Rules for OCS

In an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published Dec. 30 in the Federal Register, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) said it is beginning to develop a regulatory program to implement "Alternate Energy-Related Uses on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)." Among other things, the new program would provide access to the OCS to balance competing and complementary uses of offshore acreage and take into "account the evolving nature of the energy industry."

According to the notice, the MMS expects most of the applications received for non-oil and gas projects will be for the development of renewable energy, including wind, wave, current and solar. It also is requesting comments on types of energy that are considered to be alternative energy but not renewable energy. Alternate uses of existing facilities could include offshore aquaculture, research, education, recreation, support for offshore operations and facilities and telecommunications facilities.

The Energy Policy Act, enacted Aug. 8, amended the OCS Lands Act under Section 388 to authorize the Department of Interior to grant leases, easements or rights-of-way on the OCS to develop and support energy resources from sources other than oil and gas and to allow alternate uses of existing facilities on the OCS. The act also directed Interior, specifically MMS, to develop by mid-2006, a comprehensive program and regulations to implement the new authority.

The notice by the MMS is the first step toward developing the regulatory program. The 60-day comment period ends Feb. 28. Comments may be submitted electronically to MMS at https://ocsconnect.mms.gov/pcs-public/ or through the federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic-rel11/component/main. For more information, visit www.mms.gov.

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