Thursday, October 16, 2008

FERC makes power grab over ocean energy projects

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has upped the ante in its yearlong fight with the Minerals Management Service over who gets control over ocean energy projects off the coast. The agency issued an order today asserting its power to permit and license ocean energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf, three miles offshore.
The move is roughly equivalent to John McCain or Barack Obama issuing a press release stating "I am now President." FERC is not the decider. When I talked to Ann Miles, director of hydropower licensing at FERC, in Portland last month, she told me it will be up to the courts or Congress to decide who has ultimate authority. Similarly, Bob LaBelle at MMS told me last month that the agencies have agreed to disagree and will continue to work together amicably until it's resolved.
So what does this mean for ocean energy developers looking for clarity in the licensing process? Not much. Only that it may now be even more difficult to get a permit, depending on MMS response to the order. FERC and MMS were in the process of negotiating a memorandum of understanding on the issue. Now, who knows?

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