May 19, 2011
Massachusetts, U.S.

Offshore wind: Guidelines are work in progress

By Patrick Cassidy, Cape Cod Times, 18 May 2011

HYANNIS – Scientific advisors to the federal agency overseeing the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm and other offshore energy projects worry primarily about two things: good science and bad bureaucracy.

Members of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Outer Continental Shelf Scientific Committee convened Tuesday to discuss these and other issues at the start of a three-day annual meeting at the Holiday Inn on Route 132.

Michael Fry, chairman of the group and director of conservation advocacy for the American Bird Conservancy, said there are concerns about overlapping federal initiatives which cause inefficiency..

“In previous decades it’s not that there has been duplication, it’s that there’s been big data gaps,” Fry said. “Every agency wants to fill them.”

The 15-member scientific committee spent Tuesday listening to and questioning federal officials in charge of offshore oil and gas development as well as the use of federal waters for renewable energy projects such as Cape Wind. The committee advises Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on an environmental studies program for the Outer Continental Shelf through BOEMRE, a division of the Interior Department.

President Barack Obama’s administration has moved aggressively to encourage renewable energy projects in federal waters. Massachusetts is among a group of states on the East Coast racing to establish themselves as so-called “first movers” in the offshore wind energy industry.

Getting there, however, can be tied up in a maze of bureaucratic red tape that includes acronym-laden federal agencies with overlapping interests, according to scientists and officials who attended Tuesday’s meeting.

Agencies are working hard to establish partnerships in addressing these issues, they said. In addition, tools such as a technique known as marine spatial planning are being used to map out where competing uses may cause problems.

“We have to figure out the best places where we can find compatible uses so that you don’t end up with the crazy thing that happened with Cape Wind where every time you turn around there’s another roadblock,” said Sally Yozell, director of policy and senior advisor to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Under Secretary of Commerce Jane Lubchenco.

While opponents say Cape Wind is an example of how the process of establishing an offshore wind industry has been flawed, supporters say the project has helped propel the country forward in establishing appropriate guidelines for such efforts.

Cape Wind is proud of its role as the pioneering offshore wind energy project in the U.S. and pivoting the country toward creating a regulatory framework for offshore wind farms, Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said. The project has received the necessary approvals from state and federal agencies but still faces legal challenges and has yet to secure financial support needed to begin construction.

Cape Wind will be an important project when it is built, not only because of the site specific monitoring of birds and other species on Horseshoe Shoal but also because it will act as a model for techniques that can be used at offshore wind farms in other parts of the country, said Marvin Moriarty, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the Northeast Region.

Although the Fish and Wildlife Service is looking forward to collecting good information from the Cape Wind project, the agency has yet to see a final plan for how that information will be collected, Moriarty said.

[rest of article available at source]

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