New US Agency takes over lead role in Cape Wind project

Minerals Management Service has years of experience in leasing Federal resources

By Walter Brooks

In what is another big piece of good news for the proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) , a part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, has announced that in accordance with the recently passed Federal Energy Bill that gave them the authority to grant easements and to charge lease payments from commercial offshore wind projects, they will take over as the lead federal agency reviewing Cape Wind from the US Army Corps of Engineers.
MMS
is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior which oversees 1.76 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf, managing offshore energy and minerals while protecting the human, marine, and coastal environments.
   The OCS provides 30% of oil and 21% of natural gas produced domestically, as well as sand used for coastal restoration.
   MMS collects, accounts for, and disburses mineral revenues from Federal and American Indian lands, and contributes to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other special use funds, with Fiscal Year 2004 disbursements of about $8 billion and more than $143 billion since 1982.

 
According to the MMS web site it has started "assuming oversight of existing offshore renewable energy project permitting reviews such as Cape Wind and the Long Island project are Near term decisions and that developing an offshore wind program is a Longer term decision." Translated from gov-speak to plain English, that means these two wind farms projects will now move forward at least as fast as oil prices go up.

The other good news that the ISO New England utilities had unanimously approved Cape Wind's plan to enter the region's power grid was curiously missing from the MMS story in our local daily nwspaper this morning despite it appearing here yesterday and twice on Boston Business Journal.

MMS now lead Federal Agency, USACE continues key role

MMS has been a co:operating agency in the Cape Wind review from the onset. Now under this new authority, MMS becomes the lead Federal agency for permitting and regulatory oversight of the Cape Wind project on Nantucket Sound, and any other projects already submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will continue to play a key role in the project pursuant to its authority under the Rivers and Harbors Act.

The new agency is in the business of granting leases and permissions. It makes its money that way (see sidebar). The Army Corps. on the other hand has been under great political pressure from Senator John Warner, R-VA, who is a summer visitor to his daughter's waterfront, Osterville home. Sen. Warner is Chairman of the Arms Services Committee which oversees the funding of the Army Corps. He's also a close friend of Senator Ted Kennedy, D-MA, who is the major political opponent to the wind farm proposed for six miles offshore of his Hyannisport Compound.

In a statement late, last evening, Cape Wind's President, Jim Gordon, said, "I am confident that MMS will work expeditiously with the US Army Corps. and other Federal and state agencies in completing the Cape Wind project. It's clear that congress wants to see the MMS move ahead with more offshore energy projects to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

MMS: Offshore Minerals Management

With the signing of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) was granted new responsibilities related to renewable energy. The MMS is actively working to establish this new renewable energy program for the Federal offshore waters, and one of its first tasks is to complete the lease arrangements for the Federal waters off Cape Cod in Nantucket Sound.

While the usual pack of waterfront homeowners will undoubtedly continue spending millions to stop the project, the biggest threat has always been a too costly lease arrangement, but with oil approaching $70 a barrel, and gas at the pumps up over three times since Cape Wind was announced three years ago. The usual MMS lease arrangements of up to 27% won't come anywhere near making Cape Wind to costly.

After all, the basic "fuel" generating Cape Wind is "air", and the price of that commodity isn't likely to increase in the next millennium.


Exclusive: Cape Wind accepted by New England power grid.
Reliability Committee of 270-member ISO New England votes unanimously in favor of accepting electricity from offshore wind farm

By Jack Coleman

Once again, the Cape Wind project has received approval for a critical aspect of its proposal to build the nation's first offshore wind farm in the waters off Cape Cod.

ISO New England, the nonprofit corporation that coordinates the region's supply of electricity, has approved Cape Wind's plan for power generated from its 130 turbines to be integrated into the regional grid.

Cape Wind's critics have long contended that wind is too unreliable for use in the New England Power Pool, making it less desirable and more problematic than conventional sources of electricity.

Members of ISO New England, representing 270 utilities across New England, unanimously approved Cape Wind's plan during an Oct. 4 meeting in Springfield... For the rest of the story click here.

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