Argument: Wave power proposals will run up against permit regulations
PG&E's permit comes from FERC. But there is a question over wave power jurisdiction. The federal Minerals Management Service has jurisdiction from three to 200 miles offshore, and by year's end hopes to have rules in place for alternative energy leases, said spokesman John Romero.
FERC, however, oversees onshore hydropower applications and has claimed jurisdiction for wave technology up to 12 miles offshore, based on its reading of legal documents.
"It's a problem for anyone in charge of proposing a project," PG&E's Toman said. "At some point, it will hold things up."
David Phillips. "Wave Power Still Not on the U.S. Horizon". Energy Industry. 8 Apr. 2008 - before Finavera can begin construction of the Humboldt wave farm, it and PG&E must spend the next two to three years vetting the permitting process, the overall project design, and detailed specifications to local, state, and federal regulators and community stakeholders, including fishermen, recreational boaters and environmental groups to understand the sitting, safety and environmental impacts of the wave energy plant. The licensing process will include all required environmental studies such as impacts on local fish habitat, marine mammal migration routes, and commercial and recreational fishing zones. Installation of the Humboldt wave farm will probably not even have begun by 2012.
Jim Martin. "Wave Energy Projects Threaten North Coast Fisheries". West Coast Director, Recreational Fishing Alliance. 17 Nov. 2007 - If FERC issues a 5-year pilot license for any wave energy power project the project may continue to operate until FERC completes its lengthy review process for a subsequent 30-50 year license. FERC has dragged out similar relicensing reviews for decades to allow power projects with serious environmental impacts to continue operating. Local communities will have no more control over these plants than the tribes have over the FERC-licensed Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath River.
FERC states that the proposed projects will not be placed in "sensitive" marine areas, yet one of the projects has been deployed within the Olympic National Marine Sanctuary. The documents also state that in the case of negative environmental impacts, the plants would be "removable or able to shut down on short notice." This would indicate that plants could be disabled, but not removed.
Local stakeholders, including fishermen and the environmental community, have taken a skeptical turn based on numerous public meetings along the northwest coast. On October 2nd, FERC held a workshop in Portland on the pilot permit process. Thanks to the membership of the Recreational Fishing Alliance and the North Coast Fishing Association, saltwater recreational fishermen were represented at the meeting. The panels of speakers consisted of industry representatives, both power companies and manufacturers of the wave energy devices, a tribal representative, and spokespeople from the Oregon and Washington governor's offices.
The energy industry's goals were clear: they asked for a streamlined and flexible permit process. Industry lobbyists did not favor a requirement to post a bond to guarantee removal of the wave energy plants if abandoned. They felt five years was not enough to get a return to the investor and sought a longer term for the pilot projects.
They wanted a generic environmental assessment for the entire Pacific Northwest rather than one for each project area, and wanted to foster investor certainty of a "full commercial build-out" if they completed the permit process successfully. All of these goals depended on a flexible approach to the requirements of the Endangered Species Act and other laws that apply to everybody else.
Bob Lohn, Northwest Region chief of the National Marine Fisheries Service, expressed a willingness to engage and some enthusiasm for the wave energy projects, but cautioned that his office is overburdened with a backlog of Endangered Species Act consultations and that they could possibly undertake "one or two" projects and get them done in "ten to twelve months" if the applicants did their due diligence in collecting data and working with stakeholder groups.
[...]FERC's attorney made it clear at the hearing that the new policy of pilot permits had already been adopted and the clock was ticking on the six-month application process. How can federal fishery managers sign off on ESA consultations in six months? Two of the panelists pointed out the lack of any rule-making process. This leaves projects open to lawsuits that could tie them up for years. Yet Commissioner Phil Moeller concluded the hearing by announcing, "a common theme is emerging here: that we must get some of these devices in the water so we can learn more."
The Recreational Fishing Alliance has filed to intervene in the proceedings. We support renewable energy but are opposed to fast-tracking this permit process. Our members are opposed to any further loss to our fishing grounds, especially to power companies that have proven negatives on our fisheries.