Statement of Chairman Bingaman on Alternative Energy Potential on the Outer Continental Shelf

June 7, 2007
02:26 PM
            Today the Committee will hear testimony regarding opportunities for alternative energy on the Outer Continental Shelf.  I look forward to hearing about the role that alternative energy generated on the OCS can play in meeting our Nation’s energy needs.  One focus of the hearing will be the progress in implementation of Section 388 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to issue leases, easements, and rights-of-way for alternative energy projects and alternate uses on the OCS. 
            Pursuant to that authority, the Minerals Management Service is developing regulations and a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for an Alternative Energy and Alternate Use Program on the OCS.  However, I understand that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is also asserting jurisdiction under the hydropower provisions of the Federal Power Act for purposes of licensing ocean energy projects on the OCS. 
            The Minerals Management Service has filed formal protests to the assertion of  jurisdiction by FERC over these projects. MMS argues that the hydroelectric licensing provisions are not appropriate for wave energy projects.  For example, MMS points out that a 30 to 50-year license under the hydropower provisions is too long for exclusive use by prototype projects with uncertain cumulative impacts. 
            It is unclear to me whether both agencies should play a role with respect to authorizing these projects on the OCS.  One goal in enacting Section 388 was to simplify the authorization process for alternative energy projects.  FERC’s hydroelectric licensing process has a history of being complex, and I am not certain that applying the hydroelectric licensing process fits in this context.  I understand that FERC and the MMS have been working on a memorandum of understanding on these jurisdictional issues.  I look forward to hearing from the Department of the Interior, the FERC, and the State of Oregon on this topic and on whether clarification of the law is warranted.
            Long-term potential for the generation of electricity off the coasts of the United States is enormous.  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that there is the potential for 266 gigawatts of wind energy development on the OCS.  According to an Electrical Power Research Institute study, the estimated potential for wave and current power from our oceans is over 350 billion kilowatt hours per year.  It is important that the process for authorizing these projects facilitates production of this energy and also that it ensures environmental protection and appropriate siting.
            Thank you to the witnesses for being here today.
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