FERC and California Agree To Coordinate Ocean Energy Permit Processes

On May 18, 2010, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and California signed an agreement to work together on applications for ocean energy projects off California’s coast.

The Federal Power Act authorizes FERC to license non-federal, ocean energy projects in state marine waters. State law gives California oversight in the same waters of leasing activities, the use of state waters and the seabed, and impacts to marine life. These overlapping federal and state regulatory regimes can cause two separate permitting processes for ocean energy companies. FERC and California signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to streamline that process.

The MOU strives to coordinate the reviews for marine energy project proposals as they relate to environmental, economic, and cultural impacts. FERC and California agencies agree to share certain information addressing these three areas of concern. Specifically, FERC and California agree to notify each other when they learn about a potential applicant. They will coordinate early in the process on a detailed license application schedule. They will also coordinate on environmental reviews for impacts in state waters. Finally, they will suggest that companies pursue a pilot project license before applying for a full commercial license.

This is FERC’s fourth ocean energy MOU with a state, the others being Washington, Oregon and Maine. FERC’s efforts to streamline marine energy permit processes with coastal states should be beneficial to this growing renewable energy technology.