U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Thursday, to clarify their agencies' jurisdictional responsibilities for leasing and licensing renewable energy projects on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.
The agreement’s objective is to develop a cohesive, streamlined process that would pave the way for wind, solar, and hydrokinetic (based in movement from wave, tides, and ocean current) energy projects offshore.
This agreement will spur the development of clean, renewable energy -- the growth industry of the 21st Century. Our nation's economic future demands we lead that competition, Salazar said in a statement, adding that the agreement was removing all the regulatory barriers to develop the hydrokinetic energy which will be approached with proper protection, mitigation and enhancement of fish, wildlife and marine resources, the statement noted.
A final regulatory framework for Outer Continental Shelf renewable energy development is still being developed by Sec. Salazar.
Key components of the Memorandum of Understanding are below:
• The Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) has exclusive jurisdiction with regard to the production, transportation, or transmission of energy from non-hydrokinetic renewable energy projects, including wind and solar. MMS also has exclusive jurisdiction to issue leases, easements, and rights-of-way regarding Outer Continental Shelf lands for hydrokinetic projects. MMS will conduct any necessary environmental reviews, including those under the National Environmental Policy Act, related to those actions.
• Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has exclusive jurisdiction to issue licenses and exemptions from licensing for the construction and operation of hydrokinetic projects on the Outer Continental Shelf and will conduct any necessary analyses, including those under the National Environmental Policy Act, related to those actions. FERC's licensing process will actively involve relevant federal land and resource agencies, including Interior.
• FERC will not issue a license or exemption for an Outer Continental Shelf hydrokinetic project until the applicant has first obtained a lease, easement, or right-of-way from MMS for the site. FERC will not issue preliminary permits for hydrokinetic projects on the Outer Continental Shelf. In all leases, easements, and rights-of-way for hydrokinetic projects, MMS will require that construction and operation cannot begin without a license or exemption from FERC, except when FERC notifies MMS that a license or exemption is not required.