The Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) issued a record of decision Thursday that clears the way for it to proceed with an alternative energy and alternate use program for the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

The decision, published in the Federal Register, formally establishes the agency’s alternative energy and alternate use (AEAU) program and affirmed MMS’s intent to complete final programmatic regulations. It acknowledges the agency’s authority to consider individual projects on a case-by-case basis before final regulations are completed. The MMS also adopted 52 best management practices to minimize the potential adverse impacts of future projects.

“I applaud the agency’s thoughtful and comprehensive environmental evaluation of the potential impacts of establishing an alternative energy and alternate use program on the Outer Continental Shelf,” said MMS Director Randall Luthi. “The programmatic environmental impact statement is a crucial step in understanding the impacts of a new and unprecedented industry in the United States, and provides an excellent starting point for future, more-detailed regional and project-specific analyses.”

MMS was authorized to oversee an offshore alternative energy program under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct). The energy law granted Interior discretionary authority to issue leases, easements or rights-of-way (ROWs) for activities on the OCS that produce or support the production, transportation or transmission of energy from sources other than oil and natural gas. Alternative energy projects that MMS may authorize include wave energy, ocean current energy, solar energy and hydrogen production.

EPAct also gave Interior the authority to issue leases, easements or ROWs for other OCS project activities that make alternate use of existing OCS facilities for “energy-related purposes or for other authorized marine-related purposes.” Such activities would include offshore aquaculture, research, education, recreation and support for operations and facilities authorized under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

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