Energy Committee Chairman Bingaman, joined by Ranking Member Pete Domenici, today sent a letter to top officials at the Department of the Interior to dispel confusion regarding the permitting process for the Cape Wind Project offshore Massachusetts. In their letter to Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and MMS Director Randall Luthi, the committee leaders note that all the applicable requirements of law have been fulfilled, and they urge the agency to avoid squalls which would push the permitting process off course.
December 18, 2008
The Honorable Dirk Kempthorne The Honorable Randall Luthi
Secretary Director, Minerals Management Service
U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Department of the Interior
Dear Secretary Kempthorne and Director Luthi:
It has come to our attention that there is some confusion as to the permitting process for renewable energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) – particularly in regard to the development in Nantucket Sound commonly known as the “Cape Wind” Project. As the Committee of jurisdiction, we write to clarify the process for alternative energy projects on the OCS and urge you to complete your work on the Cape Wind Project in an expeditious manner.
In the 2005 Energy Policy Act (EPAct), Congress gave the Minerals Management Service (MMS) the responsibility for permitting offshore renewable energy facilities and required the agency to consult with the Coast Guard on navigational safety issues for such facilities. At that time, the Cape Wind Project had been under development since 2001. The Army Corps of Engineers, which previously had responsibility to review facilities located on the OCS, had already conducted an extensive National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review of the project and had developed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Upon passage of EPAct, MMS elected to conduct its own review of the project, thus starting another round of NEPA assessment.
In 2006, Congress revisited the Cape Wind permitting process by clarifying the role of the Coast Guard. Pursuant to Section 414 of the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act, we required the Coast Guard to submit recommendations regarding the navigational safety of the Cape Wind Project to MMS no later than sixty days prior to the completion of a new DEIS. The Coast Guard fulfilled this requirement on August 2, 2007 with the submission of the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Terms and Conditions for the Operation of the Nantucket Sound Wind Farm as Proposed by Cape Wind, LLC. The DEIS issued on January 4, 2008 included the Coast Guard’s terms and conditions and the DEIS then underwent an extensive public comment period. All that remains in the NEPA review process is for MMS to issue a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
There are some who have publicly urged MMS to delay the issuance of the FEIS in order to allow the Coast Guard to develop a national set of navigational safety standards for offshore renewable facilities. As you know, there is nothing in the statute or in the regulations that require such an undertaking.
Given that all of the applicable requirements of law have been fulfilled, we see no reason for the agency to delay issuance of the FEIS and urge the MMA to complete its work under the law.
Jeff Bingaman Pete V. Domenici
Chairman Ranking Member