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Biden Administration Advances California Offshore Wind Development

On May 25, 2021, the Biden Administration announced an agreement to lease almost 400 miles off California’s northern and central coasts for offshore wind development. The announcement expands on the recent approval of the first major offshore wind project in US waters. In an effort to decarbonize US power generation, the administration noted, “These initial areas for offshore wind development in the Pacific Ocean could bring up to 4.6 gigawatts of clean energy to the grid, enough to power 1.6 million American homes.”

Furthering the Biden Administration’s “whole-of-government approach” to clean energy, the US Department of Interior in connection with the US Department of Defense identified an area northwest of Morro Bay that will support three gigawatts of offshore wind. The Humboldt Call Area is also being considered as a potential offshore wind location, which would bring 4.6 gigawatts of energy to California. The Department of Defense played a significant role in identifying areas for offshore wind development, as they take part in significant training and operations off the coast of California that are essential to national security. Both the Department of Defense and Department of Interior plan to work closely together to ensure protection of military operations while pursuing new domestic clean energy resources.

To support this development in the deep Pacific Coast waters, new floating offshore wind technology will be deployed. The US Department of Energy (DOE) has invested more than $100 million in researching, developing and demonstrating floating offshore wind technology. Floating turbine technology will likely be a prime candidate for DOE Loan Programs Office support because it is (1) large enough in scale, (2) has a long lead time to develop and (3) is not commercially scalable in the same way as offshore technology that utilizes bottom anchoring. Lenders will have questions about the technology and having that guaranty could significantly aid project financing.

Ahead of yesterday’s announcement, California invested millions into its budget for environmental needs, including funding port upgrades and power lines that will carry electricity to California homes. We expect further developments in California from a legislative perspective to further offshore development.




Department of Interior Secretary Endorses Federal Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing

by James A. Pardo and Brandon H. Barnes

Speaking about upcoming Bureau of Land Management/Department of Interior (DOI) rules for hydraulic fracturing (fracing) on federal land, DOI Secretary Salazar recently opined that state regulation of fracing was insufficient and suggested that more stringent federal regulations may be required.  This is a sea change for Salazar, who previously made clear his endorsement of state fracing regulation.  While it is possible that Salazar’s comments were meant only to defend the Obama Administration’s issuance of rules for fracing on federal land, that is not the way the comments have been interpreted.  Salazar’s criticism of state fracing efforts as being "not good enough for" him was unambiguous.  The DOI Secretary’s comments came on the same day that DOI extended the period for public comment on the DOI rules by 60 days to September 10, 2012.

The issue of state versus federal fracing regulation has been debated since the process first began garnering significant media attention in the late-2000s.  With some exceptions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies cannot regulate the fracing process themselves unless and until Congress reverses its 2005 exemption of fracing from the Underground Injection Control rules of the Safe Drinking Water Act.  Predictably, Salazar’s comments have been seized on by many national non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have long advocated for federal control over what has always been a state regulated process.  His comments reinvigorate a debate that state regulation advocates appeared to have largely won last year, when Salazar and several members of President Obama’s Department of Energy Task Force on Fracturing openly and clearly expressed their support for state regulatory efforts.  Fracing stakeholders need to be keeping a close eye on the federal-versus-state regulatory debate, as it is certain to gain increased media coverage and political attention in this election year.




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