Yesterday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") and the U.S. Coast Guard ("USCG") released a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") designed to simplify and expedite the process of licensing hydrokinetic projects. Hydrokinetic technology, described by FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff as an "up and coming resource," includes projects designed to capture the energy of waves, tides, currents, and the free-flow of rivers and streams. The MOU will help coordinate the FERC licensing authority for non-federal hydropower projects with the USCG's authority to over navigation safety, maritime security, and stewardship of marine environmental resources.
The MOU requires applicants for a preliminary FERC hydrokinetic permit to notify the USCG, among other agencies. The USCG will then become a participant in FERC's pre-filing process, and will provide comments to the FERC and the applicant setting forth any concerns it has with a proposed project and identifying any needed studies. If a NEPA process is undertaken, FERC will be the lead agency, with the USCG providing input on, for example, scoping, as well as identifying any USCG concerns a regarding the project that should be considered in the environmental analysis process. The MOU also provides that, by participating in the NEPA process, the USCG agrees not to become a party to the licensing process.
Yesterday's MOU, along with guidelines issued jointly by FERC and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation & Enforcement last year for hydrokinetic projects on the Outer Continental Shelf, demonstrate that FERC intends to encourage hydrokinetic resources by reducing regulatory barriers to new hydrokinetic technologies.
If you have any questions about the MOU, FERC licensing, hydrokinetic technology, or other matters involving the development of renewable energy projects, please contact a member of GTH's Energy, Telecommunications, and Utilities practice group or Environment & Natural Resources practice group. These practice groups are consistently recognized as among the best, both nationally and in the Pacific Northwest.