Friday, October 08, 2004

Amendment to Impose Legislative Moratorium on Offshore Wind Development Proposed, then Withdrawn

The Times Dispatch of Richmond Virginia reported yesterday that U.S. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) added an amendment to a $447 billion defense appropriations bill that would strip the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from oversight of offshore projects in federal waters. The Amendment read in full:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of the Army shall not process or otherwise act on any application (including an application pending on the date of enactment of this Act) submitted under section 10 of the Act of March 3, 1899 (30 Stat.1151, chapter 425) for any wind energy project to be located on the outer Continental Shelf until such time as Congress provides to the Federal Government express authorization (including authorization to establish requirements for competitive bidding, compensation to the United States for any land use rights granted, and promulgation of environmental and other standards to govern the authorization) to grant interests in land of the outer Continental Shelf for use for wind energy projects.
But response to the amendment was overwhelmingly negative, and as the Boston Herald now reports, the amendment was withdrawn late last night after lawmakers objected to its inclusion in the appropriations bill.

The proposed amendment is not the first effort to stall offshore wind development, nor will it be the last. The Cape Cod Times reported last week on this fascinating development in the Cape Wind project. According to the article, the Department of Defense has intervened in the regulatory review process for the Cape Wind project, by requesting an opportunity to review the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that was due out this fall. The Corps, which currently has authority to review and permit major offshore wind developments, such as Cape Wind, was about to release the DEIS for public comment when the pentagon stepped in. The delay caused by the pentagon review could be indefinite, as pentagon officials are unwilling to indicate how much time they need for additional review.

As the Cape Cod Times article notes, there is speculation that the open-ended pentagon review may have come at the request of powerful opponents of the Cape Wind project, including U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. William Delahunt.

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