Obama & Salazar Release Framework for Renewable Energy Development on OCS

In an Earth Day speech at a wind turbine tower manufacturing plant, President Barack Obama announced that the Department of the Interior has finalized a long-awaited framework for renewable energy production on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

The framework establishes a program to grant leases, easements and rights-of-way for orderly, safe and environmentally responsible renewable energy development activities, such as the siting and construction of off-shore wind farms, on the OCS.

“It is fitting that on Earth Day President Obama is taking this bold step toward opening America’s oceans and new energy frontier, so that we can wisely build a clean energy economy that will create millions of new jobs across the country,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. “This new framework will enhance our energy security and create the foundation for a new offshore energy sector that will employ Americans developing clean and renewable energy.”

The new program also establishes methods for sharing revenues generated from OCS renewable energy projects with adjacent coastal States.

Additionally the framework will enhance partnerships with Federal, state, and local agencies and tribal governments to assist in maximizing the economic and ecological benefits of OCS renewable energy development. The Final Framework has been submitted to the Federal Register.

The Interior Department and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) cleared the way for the publication of these final rules by signing an agreement on April 9, 2009 that clarifies their agencies’ jurisdictional responsibilities for leasing and licensing renewable energy projects on the OCS.

Under the agreement, the MMS has exclusive jurisdiction with regard to the production, transportation, or transmission of energy from non-hydrokinetic renewable energy projects, including wind and solar. FERC will have exclusive jurisdiction to issue licenses for the construction and operation of hydrokinetic projects, including wave and current, but companies will be required to first obtain a lease through MMS.

The proposed wind farm off Nantucket Sound, known as Cape Wind, has been undergoing review independently of the rule making process, and no decision is being made on the project at this time. If approved, it will be subject to the terms of the final framework.

“The step announced today by President Obama and Secretary Salazar represents the biggest federal step forward to date for clean energy in the United States. The Administration deserves a great deal of credit for moving ahead to deliver sustainable offshore wind energy for America,” Civil Society Institute president and founder Pam Solo and Clean Power Now executive director Barbara Hill said in a statement. “The Department of Interior and its Minerals Management Service did an exemplary job conducting the regulatory review process that issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement on Cape Wind.  Now, it’s time for the Obama Administration to take the next step and issue a Record of Decision on Cape Wind as soon as possible so we can begin to move aggressively to exploit the abundant offshore wind energy potential with a shovel ready project.”

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