Friday, December 15, 2006

Cape Wind's Prospects Improve, But Project Still Faces Lengthy Delay in Federal Regulatory Review Process

Renewable Energy Access offers an interesting update on the status of the Cape Wind Project today. As the article notes, the election of democrat Deval Patrick as Governor of Massachusetts this past November has improved chances that the project will eventually be constructed. Unlike his republican predecessor, Mitt Romney, Governor-Elect Patrick supports the project. Cape Wind developers hope that the change in leadership will avoid any additional delays in state regulatory review.

But the change in the governor's office is unlikely to have a significant effect on the federal regulatory process, which has already hit a number of snags. The U.S Army Corps of Engineers originally published the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the project several years ago, in late 2004. After reviewing the DEIS, the Environmental Protection Agency filed comments critical of the project, stating that the DEIS was inadequate, and that further study was required. Then, in 2005, The Energy Policy Act of 2005 switched federal jurisdiction over offshore wind farm projects from the Army Corps of Engineers to the U.S. Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS). MMS has jurisdiction over offshore oil and gas leases, and some in Congress believed that MMS's offshore experience made it the more appropriate agency for review of offshore wind farms.

The change in jurisdiction has resulted in significant delays in the review process. MMS released its Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS for the Cape Wind project (PDF) on May 30, 2006, essentially starting the federal regulatory review process over from scratch. According to the Renewable Energy Access article, MMS has wrapped up the scoping process for the project, and expects to complete its review of the project sometime in 2008. If approved, construction likely won't start until 2009 or 2010.

Check out the Renewable Energy Access article for more details. Materials related to the new Cape Wind EIS process are available on the MMS website.

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