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Feds Agree on Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan

Less than a week after the Interior Department published the findings of a report claiming that 25% of the nation’s electricity could be supplied by offshore wind farms, the Department also reached an agreement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over how the two agencies would handle the permitting and licensing of all types of renewable energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) of the United States.

On Thursday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff signed a memorandum of understanding (pdf) that establishes a streamlined process by which Interior’s Minerals Management Service and the FERC will lease, license and regulate all renewable energy development activities on the OCS.

According to Interior Secretary Salazar, the agreement will spur the development of clean, renewable energy, which he called, “the growth industry of the 21st Century,” adding that, “Our nation’s economic future demands we lead that competition.”

Simply put, MMS will be in charge of regulating all offshore renewable energy projects, accept hydrokinetic projects like wave and tidal power. The memorandum of understanding explains the division as follows:

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.
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.
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