The breakup of the Minerals Management Service into three separated parts after the drilling disaster exposed the depths of the corruption of the old MMS, has also yielded a new focus on clean energy from the ocean, and a 700 MW off-shore wind project off of Long Island may be the first test of corruption-free permitting.
A consortium of New York utilities has just applied for a permit to start feasibility studies required to build a 700 MW off-shore wind farm that would be sited off the coast of Long Island.
At 14 miles out to sea, the turbines would be scarcely visible from land. The Long Island Power Authority had originally tried for a much smaller 140 MW farm there in 2003, but the project had been shelved in 2006, due to escalating cost estimates at that time from developer NextEra, then known as FPLEnergy. The new consortium comprises New York utility ConEd, the Long Island Power Authority, and the NYPA itself, which is the largest state-owned utility in the US.
The application goes to the Obama administration’s newly formed Bureau of Ocean Energy (BOE) which will focus more developing on renewable energy rather than primarily fossil energy as MMS did. But, unlike the MMS that it replaces: to prevent corruption, it will neither grant the permits nor collect the royalties.
To end the corruption made inevitable by both permits and receipts being handled within one entity, the old MMS is now split into distinct entities to split up the responsibilities, under a new BOE which may neither grant permits nor collect royalties.
Instead, a new Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) will now grant (or refuse) permits after environmental reviews, and a newly formed agency the Office of Natural Resource Revenue (ONRR) will collect the royalties and rents.
Despite attempts to reform the MMS from the beginning of the new administration last year, it was still mired in corruption, giving out five minute permits to BP, and only after the widely condemned oil spill was it possible to make the changes needed.
The new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management itself will include much more aggressive development of renewable resources off-shore, such as wind and wave energy. Interior Secretary Salazar had already formed an Atlantic Wind Consortium with the governors of eight Atlantic states to speed up the development of renewable off-shore wind resources, and had approved the Cape Wind project which had been mired in indecision for decades.
The new Long Island wind farm proposal will be the first project to go through permitting under the new split up agencies agency since the breakup. The new ethics oversight is just one aspect of the new Department of the Interior. The other side is an increased focus on clean energy and on environmental reviews, and not just off-shore.
Land-based energy policy has changed too. Salazar has instituted new environmental reviews for oil and gas drilling permits on Bureau of Land Management lands. Last month new royalty plans for BLM solar development were posted for 200 applications.
The Long Island project’s application fee is $16,000 and it is a lease application for 25 years. The annual rental fee is expected to be $200,000 (in receivables payable to the new ONRR).
But ONRR won’t collect a dime unless the new BSEE approves the permit. And between ONRR and BSEE – there’ll be no coke parties!
Image: Flikr user Katarina
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