MendoCoastCurrent, July 8, 2008
Act Now! Related ‘MMS Rulemaking’ Public Review & Comments Accepted Thru September 8, 2008
WASHINGTON, DC — The Minerals Management Service (MMS) announced today that it is proceeding with the consultation and analyses necessary to move toward the issuance of limited leases under its interim policy for authorizing alternative energy data collection and technology testing activities on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
“This is another important step in the advancement in the OCS Alternative Energy Program,” said MMS Director Randall Luthi. “I am excited about our progress and am looking forward to working with the states and communities to move forward with these proposed activities.”
MMS announced its interim policy in November 2007 to jumpstart basic information gathering efforts relating to development of OCS alternative energy resources such as wind, waves, and ocean currents as authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct). The limited leases envisioned under the interim policy will be for a term of five years and will not convey any right or priority for commercial development.
Following the initial announcement, MMS received more than 40 nominations of areas proposed for limited leasing off the west and east coasts. In April MMS identified a subset of 16 proposed lease areas for priority consideration and provided public notice of those areas for the purpose of determining competitive interest as required by EPAct and for receiving relevant environmental or other information. The comment period on the April notice closed on June 30. A brief description of the information received and MMS’s decisions concerning the 16 proposed lease areas follows.
New Jersey, Delaware, and Georgia—the 10 lease areas (six off NJ, one off DE, and three off GA) proposed for site assessment activities relating to wind resources drew no competing nominations and no significant comment. MMS will proceed with a noncompetitive leasing process for these sites.
Florida—three of the four lease areas off the southeast coast proposed for site assessment or technology testing activities relating to ocean current resources received competing nominations, and comments concerning the areas were favorable. MMS will proceed with a noncompetitive leasing process for the one site that did not receive competing nominations. Due to timing constraints inherent in the interim policy, as well as bureau budget and staffing considerations, MMS has decided not to proceed with a competitive auction for the other areas. Instead, the competing nominators have been asked to collaborate in order to enable interested parties to jointly benefit in information gathering under leases issued noncompetitively.
California—neither of the two areas off Northern California (Humboldt and Mendocino Counties) proposed for site assessment and technology testing relating to wave resources drew new competing nominations. However, based on two original overlapping nominations in the Humboldt area from the initial Call for Nominations in Nov. 2007, MMS has determined that there is competitive interest in that proposed lease area. MMS also received numerous comments from local stakeholders concerned about potential use conflicts and environmental issues in both areas. For the Mendocino area, MMS has decided to proceed with a noncompetitive leasing process, working with the applicant and local stakeholders to refine the area and scope of proposed activities and to address other local concerns. For the Humboldt area, MMS has decided not to hold a competitive auction and to ask the competing nominators to collaborate. If they agree to collaborate, MMS will proceed with a noncompetitive leasing process as in the Mendocino area.
The process for issuing limited leases under the interim policy will entail thorough environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act and related laws, as well as close consultation with federal, state, and local government agencies as required by EPAct.
The limited leases that will be issued under the interim policy will enable the lessees to collect information that will be useful for potential commercial projects in the future under an MMS regulatory program that is in development.
MMS published a proposed OCS alternative energy rulemaking on July 9, 2008. When final, this rule will govern all future commercial OCS alternative energy activities and will apply to any future commercial development in the areas leased under the interim policy. Limited leaseholders wishing to conduct commercial activities will need separate authorization under the final rule that is adopted.
The MMS interim policy is ongoing pending the adoption of a final rule governing OCS alternative energy activity. Interested parties may continue to submit nominations, and MMS may act on other nominations that already have been received or are received in the future.
Publisher’s Note: The MMS is seeking your comments on rulemaking for alternative energy projects…here’s their description: “The MMS is proposing regulations that would establish a program to authorize and manage alternative energy project activities on the OCS, as well as certain previously unauthorized activities that involve the alternate use of existing facilities located on the OCS; and would establish the methods for sharing revenues generated by this program with nearby coastal states”
Wish to Comment?
The proposed rule and draft environmental assessment invite public comments from interested parties by one of two methods:
1. Federal eRulemaking Portal. Under the tab “More Search Options,” click Advanced Docket Search, then select “Minerals Management Service” from the agency drop-down menu, then click “submit.” In the Docket ID column, select MMS-2008-OEMM-0012 (you may need to go to the page 2 to locate) for submitting your public comments and viewing supporting/related materials available for this rulemaking.
2. Mailing your comments to the following address:
Minerals Management Service
Offshore Energy and Minerals Management
Alternative Energy and Alternate Use Team
381 Elden Street
Herndon, Virginia 20170-4817