Archive for the ‘Ocean’ Category

Offshore Wind Projects to get a boost with ORECs

Written by Mike Pisauro on July 22nd, 2010 in Ocean, Renewable Energy, Wind | No Comments »

On June 28th both houses of the legislature passed S2036.  It now waits for the Governor to sign it into law, which he is expected to do.  S2036 does two things for offshore wind.  First it creates an offshore wind renewable energy credit or OREC.  Second the bill provides additional financial incentives for building offshore wind farms and encourages manufacturers of wind turbines and related equipment to locate their facilities in NJ.

S2036 encourages the offshore wind industry by creating ORECs.  An OREC is equal to one megawatt hour of electricity from an offshore wind project. The bill also requires the Board of Public Utilities to set up a schedule of electricity that must be supplied from offshore wind power similar to the carve out for solar.

S2036 amends NJ’s 1999 deregulation of electrical generation to create the ORECs.  As part of the 1999 deregulation the State set in place a renewable energy portfolio requirement.  The law and its regulations required electricity utilities to supply a certain percentage of its electricity from renewable sources.  These utilities could generate their own renewable energy or they could purchase renewable energy credits from those people and business that have installed renewable energy systems.  These RECs would then count towards the utilities’ RPS requirements.  The RPS increases overtime.  Currently the State plans to obtain the equivalent of 30% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2022.  The State also really wanted to encourage solar systems so it broke out from the RECs the SREC (solar renewable energy credit) and a corresponding solar RPS. These SRECs are partially responsible for NJ being #2 in the nation for renewable energy.  The SRECs are also one of the reasons that NJ has the shortest return on investment periods for solar anywhere in the country.   It is the legislature’s hope that ORECs have a similar impact that SRECs did for solar installations.

The second part of the bill provides incentives for manufactures to locate their facilities in NJ.  The bill amends NJ’s Global Warming Solutions Fund law to reallocate some of the money that NJ gets from the RGGI auctions.  These monies are available as grants or “other forms of financial assistance” to manufacturers of wind turbines and associated equipment who locate their plants in NJ.  Offshore wind projects can also receive these monies to help finance the project.

There are four wind farm projects proposed for the waters of New Jersey.  Hopefully this bill helps create the financial incentives needed to keep these projects moving forward as well as enticing new projects.

Obama Administration channels Bush and opens up the seas to oil

Written by Mike Pisauro on April 5th, 2010 in Federal, Global Warming, Ocean, Politics | No Comments »

Last week the Obama Administration announced that it would open up the outer continental shelf or oil and gas production. It was a proposal that is very reminiscent of the Bush Administrations removal of the decades old ban on offshore drilling which I wrote about in “Another short sighted solution that solves nothing.”  While this proposal sounds like a Bush administration plan, it is supposed to be part of a broader energy strategy.  President Obama in is announcement of the plan said:

I want to emphasize that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies on homegrown fuels and clean energy.  And the only way this transition will succeed is if it strengthens our economy in the short term and the long term.  To fail to recognize this reality would be a mistake.

The problem with the plan is that I do not thin it will do what it is supposed to do.  The Obama Administration’s plan to open up the OCS will do little to reduce fuel prices or availability of fossil fuels.  It is also naïve to think that the oil and gas developed off our coasts will remain in the country.  That oil and gas will go to the highest bidder no matter where they are located.  It will also subject to the OCS from additional pollution.  Pollution that is caused by the drilling process.  Pollution that is caused by leaks in the systems of offshore drilling platforms, vessels and from the pipelines.  Pollution that may arise from spills and other accidents.

Our oceans are already severely impacted by our pollution.  To increase the amount of chemicals that are leaked into the oceans through the drilling process is not going to help our oceans.  Also, is there were to be a major spill, that would devastate NJ’s economy.  In 200?, NJ tourism was the second or third biggest industry in the State.  If an oil spill was to occur off our coast, it could foul our beaches.  And oil spills do occur.  In January of this oil an oil tanker spilt 450,000 gallons in Port Arthur, Texas.  In 2007 a tanker spilled 57,000 gallons of fuel into the San Francisco Bay causing $70 million of damage to the fisheries and beaches.  I am not even mentioning The Valdez.  By some estimates Hurricane Katrina caused 6.5 millions gallons of oil to be spilled into the environment.

There is another problem with opening up the OCS for oil and gas exploration.  Even though the President suggests this is a short term plan.  The short term plan seems to be counter to the Administrations clean energy platform and to combating global energy. As President Obama said last years United Nations Conference on Climate Change:

Now, as the world’s largest economy and as the world’s second largest emitter, America bears our responsibility to address climate change, and we intend to meet that responsibility.  That’s why we’ve renewed our leadership within international climate change negotiations.  That’s why we’ve worked with other nations to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.  That’s why we’ve taken bold action at home — by making historic investments in renewable energy; by putting our people to work increasing efficiency in our homes and buildings; and by pursuing comprehensive legislation to transform to a clean energy economy.

I am also very concern that this new push for more oil and gas signals a retreat from or at least will impact our Country’s move toward renewable energy and to away from a commitment to combat climate change.  How are we going to stop incentivizing oil and gas when we open up more areas for drilling?  Are we going to lease them out for their full value?  How are we going to grow the green energy while telling the world that oil and gas is here to stay?  How do we credibly tell the world that we will lead it in solving climate change, when we cannot let go of the past.

Opening up the OCS for more oil and gas exploration is the wrong policy for many reasons.

Fisheries: How conservation now can lead to long term economic gains

Written by Mike Pisauro on August 10th, 2009 in Federal, Ocean | No Comments »

In the last couple of weeks, two reports came out regarding fish stocks.  Both of them give some measure of hope.  Before I get the actual reports, a little background is in order.  The ecological health of our oceans is in serious jeopardy.  Fish populations have been on a very steep decline, especially those fish we rely on for food.

In 2003 Pew issued a report called:   America’s Living Ocean:  Charting a Course For Sea Change.  The report noted that the U.S. Government believed that only 22% of the fish stocks (fish we rely on for food and recreation) were being managed in a sustainable manner.  According to the report almost 1/3 of our fishery stocks were over fished and were continued to be exploited in an unsustainable manner.  Of the remaining fish stocks, the report noted that there was not enough information on more than 655 different populations in order to determine whether the fisheries were healthy, being over fished or were over fished.  The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy released a report similar to Pew’s in 2004, An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century.   In that report the commission found 25 to 30 percent of the “world’s major fish stocks are over exploited.”   The damage to the commercial fishing stocks also has a ripple effect and damaging other fish populations by removing either food sources or top predators.

NJ’s fish populations follow nationally trends.  In NJ approximately 30 different fisheries are managed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.  Of those 30 fisheries, in 2003 12 species were over fished or experiencing overfishing.

In future post I will go into more depth of how our government regulates our fishing stocks, but until then I will provide a very brief overview.  Under the current system, if a species is over fished the Federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act require that the fishing stocks be rebuilt, to sustainable levels, within 10 years if biologically possible.   The country is divided into marine councils.   It is the responsibility of the marine councils to create the rebuilding plans and then to allocate the yearly catch quotas to insure the plans are effective.  These quotas are then divided between the recreational and commercial fisheries.

There have been several problems with the current quota system.  One of the problems with the system is that the quotas are set too high; thus reducing the chances that the fish population will recover.  These already too high quotas are then exceeded.  Exceeding quotas further hampers the ability to rebuild the stocks in a timely and efficient manner.

Aside from the ecologically reasons for maintaining healthy fish populations, fishing is a very large economic engine in the US.  In 2001 the U.S. commercial seafood sector contributed 28.6 billion dollars to the U.S gross national product and we at 15.2 pounds of seafood per person. Recreational fisherman spent $25 billion enjoying their fishing.  These national and world trends also apply to New Jersey.  Fishing is very important in New Jersey.  In 2003 over 170 million pounds of seafood was brought into NJ ports for total revenue of $2 billion when combined with recreational fishing.  Coastal Ocean Coalition’s

Fishing is an important economic activity.  Fishing is an important recreational activity.  A healthy fish population is important for the ecological health of the ocean.  That economic and ecological health is in serious jeopardy.  But from a recent set of reports there seems to be hope that not only the ecological health of fisheries can recover but the economic health as well.

A couple of weeks ago, the Pew Environment Group released “Investing In Our Future: The Economic Case for Rebuilding Mid-Atlantic Fish Populations.”  In essence the report details that short term restrictions would lead to long term economic benefits.  Then the Journal Science published a paper indicating that it is possible to rebuild our fishing stocks to sustainable levels.  I will write about the Science article in a future post.

The Pew report asserts that if four Atlantic Ocean species (Summer Flounder, Butterfish, Black Sea Bass, Bluefish) were allowed to rebuild according to their management plans commercial landings have gone from $55.3 million a year to $88 million a year or a 48% increase.  The recreational sector would see a 24% increase or $536 million a year.  The total direct economic benefit to the fishing sectors would be an additional $570 million per year if the fishing stocks were allowed to rebuild.  These direct economic benefits would then have resulted in indirect economic benefits through the sale of the commercial fish to fish markets, restaurants, increased jobs for fish processors, etc.

In short if the fishing councils set the quota levels at the recommended scientific levels required to rebuild stocks within 10 years and those quotas are not exceeded, there would be a substantial long term economic benefit to the commercial and recreational fishing industries.  The State of New Jersey would also benefit from the increased activity and the fishing populations would benefit by reaching sustainable and healthy populations.   By ignoring the science the regional councils are exchanging diminishing yields and profits at the expense of increase yields and profits.  Hopefully with the new Federal task force on Ocean Policy there will be a sea change.

MMS issues lease for met towers off NJ Coast

Written by Mike Pisauro on June 28th, 2009 in Federal, Ocean, Renewable Energy, Wind | No Comments »

Last week, MMS announced they would be issuing leases to the three proposed wind farm developers so that they could begin the process of installing their meteorological towers. Bluewater Wind NJ Energy, Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey, and Deepwater Wind will all be placing met towers off the coast of NJ. These towers are a necessary first step to the eventual development of shore wind. Once the met towers are in place, they will be recording data for at least 12 months or mid to late 2010.

Back in October 2008 the State issued its Energy Master Plan. The Plan sets a goal of having 1000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2012. I have always thought that time table was very aggressive and was unlikely to occur. Assuming the developers do not begin the NEPA process at the same time as they collect the data from the met towers, that process will begin late 2010 or early 2011. The NEPA process of obtaining information, analyzing the information, etc will take a significant period of time. For example, the Cape Wind project, which began around 2001, took almost three years from the very beginning of the NEPA process to the issuance of the draft EIS. It then took another four+ for MMS to issue its final EIS on the project.

Now, a lot has changed from the time Cape Wind started their project. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was passed. The State of New Jersey has convened a Blue Ribbon Panel on Wind; evaluated the issues and set forth its recommendations. MMS has interim rules for renewable energy developed on the OCS. The nation as a whole has hopefully progressed towards acceptance of wind generation. (I question how far we have progressed on this score). Also, the State is in the process of doing performing their own biological studies off the coast of NJ. All of these things may help move the process along so that the planning of these projects is not a decade long process. The NJ developers will have a framework to follow that Cape Wind did not.

Hopefully, the fact that there is a legal framework in place will shorten the legal wrangling over the project. I do believe that there will be many lawsuits challenging these projects. Local, county and some legislators have expressed concern over off shore wind development. Local property owners will certainly band together to challenge these projects. There may also be an environmental group or two who may challenge the projects in Court.

In short I believe after the NEPA process has been engaged and the lawsuits resolved one or more of the proposed wind projects will go forward. What I am fairly certain of is that no project will be in the water and generating electricity by the end of 2012. The State will have to adjust their energy master plan to account for the revised time table.

State, Regional and National focus attention on our Oceans.

Written by Mike Pisauro on June 22nd, 2009 in Clean Water, Federal, legislation, Ocean, Politics | No Comments »

June, as national ocean month, has been a fairly busy one. Two weeks ago the Governors of NY, NJ, DE, MD, and VA met in NY to create the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Oceans. Governor Corzine has just appointed members to the NJ Coastal and Ocean Protection Council. President Obama also has created an inter-agency task force. These are all laudable steps on addressing the dire condition of the Oceans. They are long overdue steps.

In 2003 and 2004 the Pews Ocean Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy issued their reports on the health of our oceans. Without going into great detail the cliff notes of these reports were that our oceans are in serious jeopardy and actions had to be taken to reverse course. It has been 5 to 6 years since those reports were issued and at least in NJ the course has not been reversed. There might be debate on whether the continued degradation of our oceans has been slowed, but it clearly has not been reversed. There is still a dead zone stretching along 100 miles of NJ’s coast. Fishing stocks are still declining. Pollution is still running off compromised watersheds further deteriorating the health of our ocean. At the same time there is a push to increase exploration for fossil fuels and to install new renewable energy off our coast.

In order to help NJ address the Pews and U.S. Ocean recommendations, the New Jersey Coastal Ocean Coalition issued a report called: Ocean Protection in New Jersey: A Blueprint for Success. After several years of lobbying, the COC successfully got passed and signed into law the Coastal Ocean Protection Council law. That law took effect on January 13, 2008. In part the law created a council to help the State look at the issues affecting the coast and how best to address the issues. It took over 18 months from the time Governor signed this legislation into law to when he made appointments to the council. It has been 18 months without the council working towards strategies on improving NJ’s regulation of the ocean and coastal environments. It has been six years since the Pews report called for coordinated approaches toward regulating this resource without any meaningful movement to correcting the problem.

When Governor Corzine, entered into the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Oceans he said:
Any threat to these natural resources brings economic consequences that threaten jobs, local economies, and our economic well being. New Jersey is committed to working with our Mid-Atlantic partners to provide adequate safeguards and formulate a shared vision for the region’s future.

This is not a new sentiment, but one that the State asserted when the New Jersey’s Coastal Area Facility Review Act was passed in 1973. I hope that New Jersey and the surrounding states are seriously but addressing the multiple threats to our oceans.

We need a mechanism to coordinate policy with our neighboring states because as we all know the water along our coast does not stay within the jurisdiction of anyone state, but it moves. It is the plan that the Council will help the States examine the issues on the regional level and help the State address them in ways that are not counterproductive to each other.

Even more recently, the President created the Ocean Policy Task Force. One of the goals of the Task Force is to propose a national policy that will protect, maintain and restore the oceans, coastal and Great Lake ecosystems including the implementation of adaptive management; a way to coordinate interagency actions, and how to implement these proposals. The Task Force is also put together a recommendation for coastal and marine spatial planning. If I am reading this Memorandum right the goal for the Task Force is to take the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and to figure out how to implement it.

These are very important concepts that I hope are more than catchy phrases to government. If these are no more than words than there will not be an improvement. These words must the announcement of actual action. For NJ, they must implement the Coastal and Ocean Protection Council and allow the council to get to work. For the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Oceans the States must look how many of their regulations both water and land based affect the oceans and how each State can compliment their neighbor’s work. Lastly, the Federal Task for can look at how to assist the States and Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on their missions as well as to provide a uniform framework across multiple agencies on how to cherish and protect this vital resource. We will see if actions do speak louder than words.

Grays Harbor's application is dismissed

Written by Mike Pisauro on May 13th, 2009 in Federal, Ocean, Renewable Energy, Wave & Tidal, Wind | No Comments »

I saw a post, at RenewablesOffshore regarding the memorandum of understanding between FERC and MMS.  As I noted previously these agencies have entered into a memorandum of understanding on the handling of offshore renewable energy projects.  As a result of the MOU, FERC has dismissed Grays Harbor’s application for a preliminary permit for a wave project off the coast of Atlantic City.  I wrote about Grays Harbor’s application here.   The dismissal at least deals with the objects filed by NJ Board of Public Utilities, EPA, Interior, several of the wind energy companies, and the New Jersey Environmental Lobby.  This clears the way to an organized way to move NJ’s goals of offshore renewable energy forward.

Also, this MOU opens the way for the final MMS’ rules to be adopted to regulate the offshore renewable energy projects.

MMS releases final rule for offshore renewable energy's leasing

Written by Mike Pisauro on April 22nd, 2009 in Federal, Global Warming, Ocean, Renewable Energy, Wind | No Comments »

On Earth Day, MMS released for publication the final rule on offshore renewable energy leasing of the outer continental shelf.  The 579 rule.  You can find the rule (here) and the much much shorter press release (here).  This is good news for New Jersey.  Once the rule takes affect after 60 days, the three proposed wind farms can begin the leasing process.  Assuming the environmental impact statements show that the harm to the ocean environment is minimal or none then NJ can get just a little closer to its goal under its energy master plan.

Hopefully, I will get a chance to reveiw the final rule and I will post my thoughts.

Happy Earth Day!

DEP cannot ignore the requirments of the law

Written by Mike Pisauro on March 28th, 2009 in Courts, land use, Ocean | No Comments »

Recently, the appellate division reminded DEP that it has to follow the law. In Dragon v. NJDEP, the NJ Appellate Division reversed the DEP’s authorization of development in the CAFRA zone without issuing a permit.

The case arose because a property owner wanted to demolish their existing home and build a new larger one next to the beach of Brigantine. The original proposed expansion would have expanded their home from 1944 to 3480 square feet and brought the house nine feet closer to the beach. The homeowner applied twice for a general permit which was denied because they did not meet the requirements of the general permit on either occasion. On both applications, one of the homeowner’s neighbors objected to the applications.

The homeowners appealed the denial and the matter was referred to DEP’s office of dispute resolution. During the dispute resolution process the DEP and the homeowners reached a compromise. This settlement was reduced to a written “Mediation & Settlement Agreement in lieu of a permit.” The neighbor objected to the settlement and challenged it. The DEP rejected the challenge and issued the homeowners a “Letter of Authorization” (LOA) allowing the reconstruction of the house, but even bigger than what the homeowners requested and without any set back from the bulkhead along the beach. This LOA specifically provided that it was instead of a coastal general permit under the Coastal Zone Management rules.

The objecting neighbors appealed the issuance of the LOA alleging that the Coastal Area Facility Act (CAFRA) and its implementing rules did not allow the DEP to settle a case by authorizing development without the applicant meeting the requirements of and receiving a permit. The DEP countered it had the authority “deviate from strict compliance with its own regulations in order to avoid ‘litigation risks’ and to prevent” a possible adverse legal ruling.

The Appellate division ruled that CAFRA did not give the DEP authority to waive the substantive requirements of the statute or it’s implementing regulations. (DEP could have the authority to wave procedural requirements.) Because CAFRA was designed to balance the completing interests of protecting, repairing and enhancing the environment with encouraging compatible land use it was important that any development be either by permit or within one of CAFRA’s exemptions. DEP could not in the spirit of settlement avoid the need to issue a permit. If the DEP wanted authority to issue settlement agreements without issuing a permit or to waive substantive requirements, it must gain that authority from the legislature. In short, DEP cannot give itself more power than what the law permitted.

FERC and MMS begin to play nice.

Written by Mike Pisauro on March 17th, 2009 in Federal, Ocean, Renewable Energy, Wave & Tidal, Wind | 1 Comment »

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Mineral Management Service (MMS) have finally decided to work together in dealing with offshore renewables.  They issued a press release announcing that they have agreed to work together in permitting offshore renewables. Up till now there was a dispute as to which agency had jurisdiciton over the permitting of wave and tidal projects in Federal waters.  I have been meaning to write about the dispute and how it was going to work against progress but had not gotten around to it.  Instead Carolyn Elefant has a discussion of the issue on her blog, Offshore Renewable Energy Blog.

The press release seems to indicate that FERC will have jurisdiction over wave and tidal projects and MMS will have jurisdiction over wind projects in federal waters.  We will have to wait to see how the Memorandum of Understanding sets out how this is going to work.  For example, while FERC will be issuing permits for wave and tidal projects does the applicant have to also get a lease from MMS?  What happens if they have the permits but cannot get the lease?  What happens when a permit application goes in for a wave project in the same area as where developers are seeking leases from MMS for wind projects?   That is exactly what is happening with Grays Harbour proposed site is overlayed with Blue Water Wind and one other (i think Deepwater Wind) sites.

If the Country is interested in developing renewable energy than these kinds of conflicts really need to be worked out ahead of time not as they develop.  Back in 2004 the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy recommended that these issues be dealth with ahead of time and that the jursidicational disputes be clarified with a National Ocean Council.  We will see if the FERC and MMS compromise provides a workable framwork.

Tidal Power coming to NJ

Written by Mike Pisauro on January 11th, 2009 in Clean Up, Ocean, Renewable Energy, Uncategorized, Wave & Tidal | No Comments »

Tidal power is coming to NJ.  On Dec. 17, 2008, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted a preliminary permit to Natural Currents Energy Services (NCES).  The company proposes to install two in stream tidal turbines, in the Manasquan River, to generate approximately 150,000 to 300,000 KW hours of electricity per year.  The electricity would be used to power the Kingsbridge Marina and Kingsbridge Financial Groups buildings in Point Pleasant, NJ.  NCES notes that any excess would be sold back to the grid per NJ’s net metering laws.

The preliminary permit is the first step in a multistep process before permission is granted to install and operate the turbines.  The issuance of a preliminary permit only allows NCES to the study the environmental impacts of the proposed project and will provide priority for NCES’ application for permits to install and operate the project.   The preliminary permit does not allow NCES to actual install the turbines and operate them.  Once the studies are complete than an applicant to apply for a FERC license.

NCES is proposing to study the site’s geology, navigation and local marine ecology during the preliminary permit period.  The study will look at the proposed project’s impact on fish and marine animals between January to December 2009.  For example, NCES is proposing to study the impact of fish passing through the turbines between May and August 2009.   As part of the permit application process various Federal and State agency filed comments to the application.  According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the proposed project location is habitat for eighteen federally managed species.  Some of these species are: winter flounder, windowpane, Atlantic butterfish, summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, alewife and blueback herring.  NMFS is concerned that the proposed studies are not designed to give adequate data on the impacts of the turbines on the fish populations as it is scheduled for times where some fish are not present.   Therefore, NMFS is suggesting the studies continue for a full year.

Now that the permit has been issued, NCES has 45 days to submit a schedule. They must also submit reports every six months on the project.  Hopefully, FERC and the other interested agencies insure that the applicant crafts the studies to be meaningful and not merely to minimize any possible negative results.  Once all the data is collected then during the licensing process it can be determined whether tidal turbines make sense for this location.

If the site is appropriate it will help NJ meet its class 1 renewable goals of 22.5%.  Wave and tidal generators are classified as Class 1 renewable energy.  It is interesting that while this permit had been filed during NJ’s energy master plan process, there is barely any mention of wave or tidal energy as part of the recently issued EMP.   What role should tidal power have or can have in NJ?  Also, should NJ encourage these kind of projects in the State and if so how?