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Posts Tagged ‘MMS Leases’

JOHN UPTON, San Francisco Examiner, August 22, 2010

The view to the west from Ocean Beach could one day be cluttered with scores of spinning windmills, generating power.

San Francisco under Mayor Gavin Newsom has long explored the possibility of tapping alternative energy sources, including tidal, wave, solar, geothermal and wind power.

San Francisco is reviewing the environmental impacts of a planned project that would place underwater devices off Ocean Beach to harness wave power, which is a nascent form of renewable energy. The review and its approvals are expected to wrap up within a year.

City leaders are starting to think that construction of the wave power project could help them assess the viability of a more visually striking proposal: a wind farm.

Ocean Beach was found by UC Berkeley professor Ronald Yeung to have good potential for a powerful wave energy farm. Waves that roll into the beach are created by Arctic tempests.

The finding was confirmed last year by city contractors, who determined a facility could provide up to 30 megawatts of electricity — enough power for 30,000 homes.

Environmental review work under way involves studying sediment movement and tracking whale migration patterns to determine the best places on the sea floor to attach futuristic wave power devices.

Recent changes in federal regulations could limit San Francisco to working within three miles of the shoreline because offshore renewable energy projects now require expensive leases instead of less-expensive permits, although the process is clouded by uncertainty.

The federal Mineral Management Services agency has responsibility for regulating offshore renewable energy resources, including wave and power farms, but the agency is being overhauled in the wake of the Gulf oil spill disaster.

The recent regulatory changes could see offshore energy rights snapped up by deep-pocketed oil or utility companies under anticipated bidding processes.

On San Francisco’s clearest days, visitors to Ocean Beach can sometimes see the Farallon Islands, which are 27 miles west of San Francisco — nearly 10 times further out to sea than the three-mile offshore border.

After safe and potentially powerful locations have been identified, wave energy technology will be selected from a growing suite of options including devices that float near the surface, those that hover in midwater and undulating seabed equipment inspired by kelp.

The next step would involve applying for permits and installing the equipment.

Somewhere along the way, costs will be determined and funds will need to be raised by officials or set aside by lawmakers.

Once the wave-catching equipment is in place, it could be used to help determine wind velocities and other factors that make the difference between viable and unviable wind farm sites.

“What we really need to do is put some wind anemometers out there,” Newsom’s sustainability adviser Johanna Partin said. “There are a couple of buoys off the coast with wind meters on them, but they are spread out and few and far between. As we move forward with our wave plans, we’re hoping there are ways to tie in some wind testing. If we’re putting stuff out there anyway then maybe we can tack on wind anemometers.”

Partin characterized plans for a wind farm off Ocean Beach as highly speculative but realistic.

Wind power facilities are growing in numbers in California and around the world.

But wind farms are often opposed by communities because of fears about noise, vibrations, ugliness and strobe-light effects that can be caused when blades spin and reflect rays from the sun.

A controversial and heavily opposed 130-turbine project that could produce 468 megawatts of power in Nantucket Sound received federal approvals in May.

West Coast facilities, however, are expected to be more expensive and complicated to construct.

“The challenge for us on the West Coast is that the water is so much deeper than it is on the East Coast,” Partin said.

Treasure Island is planned site for turbine test

A low-lying island in the middle of the windswept Bay will be used as a wind-power testing ground.

The former Navy base Treasure Island is about to be used in an international project to test cutting-edge wind turbines. It was transferred last week to to San Francisco to be developed by private companies in a $100 million-plus deal.

The testing grounds, planned in a southwest pocket of the island, could be visible from the Ferry Building.

The first turbines to be tested are known as “vertical axis” turbines, meaning they lack old-fashioned windmill blades, which can be noisy and deadly for birds.

The devices to be tested were developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in cooperation with Russian companies. Five were manufactured in Russia and delivered to California earlier this year.

The wind-technology relationship, which was funded with $2 million in federal funds, grew out of an anti-nuclear-proliferation program started in 1993.

“The vertical machines should be good in gusty low-wind conditions, which are those which you expect in an urban environment,” lead LBNL researcher Glen Dahlbacka said recently.

The machines were designed to minimize noise and are easily built.

“They’re relatively easy to work up in a fiberglass shop,” Dahlbacka said.

Eventually, each device could be coupled with solar panels to provide enough power for a modest home, Dahlbacka said.

The team is not expected to be the only group to test wind turbines on the island.

San Francisco plans to provide space for green-tech and clean-tech companies to test their wind-power devices on the island to help achieve product certification under federal standards adopted in January.

The program could help San Francisco attract environmental technology companies.

“It’s an opportunity to attract and retain clean-tech companies,” Department of the Environment official Danielle Murray said. “We’ve just started putting feelers out to the industry.”

The proposed testing grounds might have to shift around as the island is developed with thousands of homes and other buildings in the coming years.

“We need to work with them with regards to where these things go and how they would interact with the development project,” Wilson Meany Sullivan developer Kheay Loke said.

— John Upton

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Washington Post Editorial, February 12, 2009

Interior Secretary Salazar Keeps his Options Open on Offshore Drilling 

17transition2-6001Here’s the ultimate midnight regulation: On the very last day of the Bush administration, the Interior Department proposed a new five-year plan for oil and gas leasing on the outer continental shelf. All hearings and other meetings on the scope of the plan, which would have opened as much as 300 million acres of seafloor to drilling, were to be completed by March 23, 2009. On Tuesday, Ken Salazar, President Obama’s interior secretary, pushed back the clock 180 days, imposing order on a messy process.

Mr. Bush’s midnight maneuver would have auctioned oil and gas leases without regard to how they fit into a larger strategy for energy independence. More can be done on the shelf than punching for pools of oil to satisfy the inane “drill, baby, drill” mantra that masqueraded as Republican energy policy last summer.

Mr. Salazar’s 180-day extension of the comment period is the first of four actions that he says will give him “sound information” on which to base a new offshore plan for the five years starting in 2012. He has directed the Minerals Management Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to round up all the information they have about offshore resources within 45 days. This will help the department determine where seismic tests should be conducted. Some of the data on the Atlantic are more than 30 years old.

The secretary will then conduct four regional meetings within 30 days of receiving that report to hear testimony on how best to proceed. Mr. Salazar has committed to issuing a final rule on offshore renewable energy resources “in the next few months.” Developing plans to harness wind, wave and tidal energy offshore would make for a more balanced approach to energy independence. It would also have the advantage of complying with the law. Mr. Salazar helped to write a 2005 statute mandating that Interior issue regulations within nine months to guide the development of those offshore renewable energy sources [the Energy Policy Act of 2005], a requirement that the Bush administration ignored.

Mr. Salazar’s announcement was also notable for what it didn’t do. Much to the chagrin of some environmental advocates, it didn’t take offshore drilling off the table. Nor did it cut oil and gas interests out of the discussion.

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GreenCarCongress.com, July 26, 2008

The US Minerals Management Service (MMS) 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).

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.

The specific companies involved with the proposed projects are listed below:

  • Delaware: Bluewater Wind Delaware LLC (wind resources data collection)
  • New Jersey: Bluewater Wind New Jersey Energy LLC (3 OCS blocks for wind resources data collection). Fisherman’s Energy of New Jersey (wind resources data collection). Winergy Power LLC (2 OCS blocks for wind resources data collection)
  • Georgia: Southern Company (3 OCS blocks for wind resources data collection)
  • Florida: Aquantis LLC/Aquantis Development Co. Inc. (ocean current data collection and technology testing)
  • California: Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (wave resources data collection, offshore Mendocino)

There is one proposed lease area off California and three off Florida where there is overlapping interest. For those areas, MMS is investigating whether the companies are interested in collaborating on resource data collection activities. Those companies are:

  • California: Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Marine Sciences (wave resources data collection offshore Humboldt)
  • Florida: Proposed lease area 1: Oceana Energy Co and Vision Energy LLC (ocean current resource data collection). Proposed lease area 2: Marine Sciences and Vision Energy LLC (ocean current resource data collection). Proposed lease area 4: Florida Power & Light Co and Vision Energy LLC (ocean current resource data collection).

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EnergyCurrent.com, July 30, 2008

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dick Kempthorne has started the development of a new oil and natural gas leasing program for the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. The action could give the next administration a head start in expanding energy production from federal offshore jurisdictions, including some areas where a congressional moratorium has restricted oil and gas development.

Reacting to current energy prices and president George W. Bush’s lifting of the presidential ban on offshore drilling, Secretary Kempthorne has directed the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) to begin the initial steps for developing a new five year program. The multi-year process starts with a call for information from all parties on what a new five year program should consider.

MMS is also requesting comment to ensure that all interests and concerns are considered regarding oil and gas leasing and exploration and development resulting from a new five year program. The governors of all 50 states will be specifically asked for their comments, particularly on issues unique to each state.

The current program runs from 2007-2012 and includes 21 lease sales in eight of the 26 Outer Continental Shelf planning areas in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and the Atlantic. It does not include areas under a congressional ban, with the exception of Virginia. The new program, depending on public comment, can consider any area although any leasing in a banned area would need congressional action. If approved the new program would begin in 2010 and end in 2015.

Kempthorne said, “Today a barrel of oil costs more than $120, almost double the price a year ago. Clearly, today’s escalating energy prices and the widening gap between U.S. energy consumption and supply have changed the fundamental assumptions on which many of our decisions were based.”

“The American people and the President want action and this initiative can accelerate an offshore exploration and development program that can increase production from additional domestic energy resources.”

“This initiative could provide a significant advantage for the incoming administration, offering options it would not otherwise have had until at least 2010,” Kempthorne added.

“Today’s action would provide a two year head start for the next administration on developing a new five-year program.”

The Outer Continental Shelf currently provides 27% of U.S. domestic oil production and 15% of domestic natural gas production, the majority of this from the Gulf of Mexico. MMS believes that the areas under a congressional ban contain an additional 18 billion barrels of oil and 76 Tcf of natural gas in yet-to-be-discovered fields.

MMS considers the numbers conservative estimates because little exploration has been conducted in most of those areas during the past 25 years because of the congressional ban. The estimates could increase with new technology and exploration techniques.

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DAVID R. BAKER, The San Francisco Chronicle, July 31, 2008

The U.S. Interior Department ratcheted up the pressure on Congress Wednesday to open more of the country’s coastline to offshore oil drilling, a move petroleum companies have sought for decades.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said his department will lay the groundwork for selling undersea oil-drilling leases on the outer continental shelf, including areas now protected by a congressional ban. Republicans are pushing hard to end the moratorium, which was imposed in 1982 and covers most of the East and West coasts.

The Interior Department has no authority to lift the ban. But if Congress votes to open the coasts to drilling, the department could hit the ground running, selling leases as early as 2011. Exploratory drilling would probably begin a few years after that.

“Americans continue to struggle with high gas prices, and it’s important that we do more to develop domestic sources of energy,” Kempthorne said.

As a first step, the Interior Department will solicit comments from oil companies, state governors, environmental groups and others as to which specific stretches of seafloor should be leased for drilling. The department will consider areas that are already open – such as the Gulf of Mexico – as well as those that aren’t.

The move pleased oil industry groups as well as politicians who want more offshore oil production.

“We’ve got to get off foreign oil. We’ve got to use our own domestic production,” said Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona (Riverside County), who introduced legislation this month to lift the moratorium. He said royalties from oil pumped off the California coast could be a boon to state government.

“I think it’s a better solution than raising taxes,” Calvert said. “Why don’t we take advantage of the resources we know we have and help address the structural deficit problem in California?”

But leading congressional Democrats remain adamantly opposed to lifting the ban. They note that most of the estimated oil reserves on the outer continental shelf – about 79% – lie in areas that are already open to drilling.

“This is nothing more than a political stunt to divert attention from the high gas prices that have resulted from having two oil men in the White House,” California Sen. Barbara Boxer said Wednesday.

Environmental groups also panned the Interior Department plan. Like the congressional Democrats, they want the nation to invest more heavily in alternative energy sources and start weaning itself off oil.

“There’s simply no way, with 2% of the world’s oil reserves, that you can solve our problems by drilling” on the outer continental shelf, said Jim Presswood, an energy issues advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Interior Department officials said Wednesday that they also want to increase the development of alternative energy sources offshore. For two years, the department has studied leasing portions of the outer continental shelf to companies that want to build offshore windmills or install buoys that generate electricity as they bob up and down on the waves.

PG&E has proposed two such wave energy projects off the coasts of Humboldt and Mendocino counties.

The Interior Department’s alternative energy effort will dovetail with the new push on offshore oil drilling, Kempthorne said.

“Alternative energy development and traditional energy development are not mutually exclusive,” he said.

Although the department will ask for comments from governors, that doesn’t mean the governors would be able to veto offshore drilling in federal waters near their states. States control the waters within 3 miles of shore, but can’t directly control development farther out.

Kempthorne and other Interior Department officials emphasized on Wednesday their desire to work with the governors. But they said Congress would have to determine how much authority to give the states should legislators lift the drilling moratorium.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opposes offshore drilling. This week, the Republican governor touted an agreement with his counterparts in Oregon and Washington to work together to protect the coastal environment, an agreement that includes rejecting offshore oil drilling.

“The governor understands that people are frustrated with the soaring price of gas, but in California, we know offshore drilling is not the answer,” said Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Lisa Page.

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DAVID R. BAKER, Village Green/SFGate.com, July 23, 2008

Drilling for undersea oil along the east and west coasts has quickly turned into one of America’s loudest political fights, as anyone reading the comments on SFGate can attest. But it’s not the Bush administration’s only plan for offshore energy.

For the past few years, the administration has been studying how to open the coasts to renewable energy projects, things like wave farms and underwater turbines designed to generate electricity by harnessing the tides. The Minerals Management Service — the same federal agency that sells offshore oil leases — has quietly pieced together a program to grant leases for testing renewable energy projects at sea.

On July 23, 2007, the service reported that it would move forward with the lease program, which will include two locations along the northern California coast.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co., California’s largest utility, wants a lease to study wave power off of Humboldt and Mendocino counties. Oil giant Chevron proposed a similar study along Mendocino but later dropped the project. A smaller company, Marine Sciences of San Diego, is seeking a lease that would cover some of the same offshore areas as PG&E’s Humboldt proposal.

The Minerals Management Service wants PG&E and Marine Sciences to collaborate on the project, rather than grant the two companies overlapping leases. Each lease will cover a specific patch of the ocean and will run for five years. Companies receiving the leases will be allowed to test equipment at sea — equipment such as buoys that generate electricity as they bob up and down on the waves. But the companies will not be allowed to set up commercial operations there.

Before any leases are handed out, the service will continue studying potential environmental pitfalls. Some north coast residents worry that a cluster of power-generating bouys tethered to the seafloor could interfere with fishing or the migration of whales. The service would like to start handing out leases as early as this fall and may be able to do so with some sites on the east coast. But the California leases could easily take longer, said service spokesman John Romero.

“The hope is we can do these things sooner than later, but bottom line, we’re not going to compromise the environmental review process,” he said.

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Minerals Management Service, April 17, 2008

Issues Notice to Determine Competitive Interest in Nominated Areas

WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service today designated five areas on the Outer Continental Shelf as priority areas for alternative energy research in federal waters.

The five areas are offshore New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, Florida and California. The agency is proposing limited, temporary leases in these areas for data collection and technology testing related to wind, wave and ocean current energy development. There will be no commercial energy production activity associated with the proposed leases.
“This is a major step forward in expanding our nation’s energy portfolio,” said MMS Director Randall Luthi during a speech today at the Global Marine Renewable Energy conference in New York. “The information gained from research in these areas will greatly increase our understanding of the vast renewable energy potential just off our coast,” he said.

The agency received over forty nominations for alternative energy research projects in response to a November 2007 Federal Register notice. Of those, 16 could potentially go forward within the five priority areas. Ten of those proposed projects are related to wind energy and would be located in the areas offshore New Jersey, Delaware and Georgia. Four proposals offshore Florida would be related to ocean current energy, and two off Northern California would be related to wave energy. The remaining nominations are still being considered by MMS and decisions will be based on the proposed projects’ viability.

Prior to leases actually being issued or consideration of specific project proposals, the agency must first determine if competitive interest exists for research in the five areas. MMS must also evaluate other information related to those areas such as environmental factors and current commercial activities such as fishing and shipping.

The agency issued a Federal Register notice to be published Friday, April 18 that provides details about the five areas along with instructions for the public to provide comments. Individuals or organizations with competitive interest will have 30 days to provide comments, and the agency will accept public comments on the proposed lease areas for 60 days. The Federal Register notice will be published tomorrow.

The November notice also established interim guidelines for alternative energy research and testing on the OCS. MMS is preparing final regulations for the OCS Alternative Energy and Alternate Use program in accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and hopes to publish those regulations by the end of the year.

“We are excited to be moving forward and hope to work with interested and affected parties to advance our knowledge of important offshore energy resources,” stated Director Luthi.

Comments may be submitted by either of the following 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-OMM-0020 to submit public comments and to view supporting and related materials available for this rulemaking.

2. Mailing your comments to the following address:

Minerals Management Service
Offshore Minerals Management
Alternative Energy and Alternate Use Team
381 Elden Street
Herndon, Virginia 20170-4817

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized MMS to establish the OCS Alternative Energy and Alternate Use (AEAU) Program. Under this authority, MMS will regulate alternative energy projects and projects that involve the alternate use of existing oil and gas platforms on the OCS. Alternative energy includes, but is not limited to wind, wave, solar, underwater current and generation of hydrogen. Alternate uses of existing facilities may include aquaculture, research, education, recreation, or support for offshore operations and facilities.

Contact: Gary Strasburg, 202-208-3985

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