January 21, 2008 by 8string
The feds outlandish behavior over states rights to determine environmental policy continues. This will probably end up in court for some time to come. It’s a pity, as we need to be moving alternative energy forward, but not at the sake of our local decision making process.
Department of Ecology News Release – January 18, 2008
Ecology seeks rehearing of federal decision made without considering state environmental reviews for renewable energy projects
OLYMPIA – The Department of Ecology (Ecology) has filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to rehear a Dec. 20, 2007, decision that FERC made to try and move a proposed energy project forward by circumventing state environmental protection requirements.
In an unparalleled move, FERC sidestepped Ecology’s authority to provide timely environmental reviews of renewable energy projects. The commission gave Finavera Renewables of Vancouver, British Columbia, a special five-year environmental approval to move forward with a wave energy project at Makah Bay.
Any FERC licensing decision must incorporate Ecology’s decision under the federal Clean Water and the Coastal Zone Management acts.
Gordon White, manager for Ecology’s Shorelands and Environmental Assistance program said that Ecology and the state Office of Regulatory Assistance were on track to make a water-quality certification decision for Finavera by mid-February.
He said that the department also was on course to determine that the project was consistent with state and federal shoreline regulations.
As outlined in the plan, the Finavera offshore energy project consists of four large wave buoys anchored three miles or less from the Makah Bay shore that would produce one megawatt of electricity. Power would be transmitted to shore by an undersea transmission line.
“By trying to circumvent other state and federal environmental permit processes, FERC’s decision gives companies like Finavera no assurance that their project will finally meet all environmental regulations,” White said. “It could even make it more difficult for companies to get reliable funding by muddying the waters in our attempt to streamline the state permitting process for renewable energy projects.”
White noted that there are eight to 10 other “in-water” renewable energy projects either seeking, or about to seek, environmental permits from Ecology. Some of the potential projects would be located in the Puget Sound, the Columbia River and on the state’s outer coast.
“It is imperative that we have a clear efficient process for reviewing these projects. Unfortunately FERC’s decision to issue a temporary permit decision leaves everyone unclear about whether a project has their approval or not.”
Ecology Director Jay Manning said the department “fully supports renewable energy projects in Washington, especially those designed to reduce or eliminate greenhouse gases and other climate-changing pollutants. However, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission does not have the authority – by statute or Congressional intent – to set aside existing environmental laws designed to protect our state’s water quality and shorelines.”