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FERC, Interior Clarify Energy Project Responsibilities on OCS

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to clarify jurisdictional responsibilities for leasing and licensing renewable energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf OCS). The MOU clears the way for developing wind, solar, wave, tidal and ocean current energy sources.

"This agreement will spur the development of clean, renewable energy -- the growth industry of the 21st Century," said Salazar. "Our nation's economic future demands we lead that competition."

The Interior Department under Salazar has made offshore wind, solar and hydrokinetic energy a top priority. He expects to have a final regulatory framework for OCS renewable energy development in the near future following a series of four stakeholder meetings, including two held last Monday and Wednesday (see Daily GPI, April 9; April 7).

"By removing all the regulatory barriers to the development of hydrokinetic energy in the Outer Continental Shelf, this agreement will advance the development of a promising renewable resource that in the end will benefit consumers," said Wellinghoff.

The agreement establishes a process through which Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will lease, license and regulate all renewable energy development activities on the OCS, including hydrokinetic sources (wave, tidal and ocean current). Under the agreement:

Under the agreement, FERC and MMS would coordinate to ensure that hydrokinetic projects meet the public interest, including the adequate protection and enhancement of fish, wildlife and marine resources, and other beneficial public uses. Both agencies could inspect authorized hydrokinetic projects on the OCS to ensure compliance with the terms of leases, easements, rights-of-way, licenses or exemptions.

"At its discretion," said the MOU, FERC may choose to become a cooperating agency with MMS to prepare an environmental document for the lease, easement and right-of-way of any OCS hydrokinetic project. Likewise, MMS may choose to be a cooperating agency with FERC.

The agencies also would coordinate to ensure that any licenses or exemptions issued by FERC, and all operations regulated by FERC with respect to a lease, easement or right-of-way, are consistent with the provisions of the OCS Lands Act, the Federal Power Act and other applicable law.

The MOU is available at www.ferc.gov/legal/maj-ord-reg/mou/mou-doi.pdf.

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