Sep 26, 2010

Maine Offshore Wind: what Tilberg, USCG, EPA & two state reps asked at the 9/14/10 meeting

The following question and answer session took place 9/14/10  after a presentation by Algene Byrum, Environmental Protection Specialist  for the Renewable Energy Division of  BOEMRE, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. Listen to this Q&A session HERE
 Byrum's presentation explained  how the agency proposes to combine preparation of Site Assessment Plans and Construction Operation Plans, when considering the environment off the Maine coast where ocean windmills could be sited. Questions are answered by Byrum and by Maureen Bornholdt, BOEMRE's Renewable Energy chief.

GEORGE LAPOINTE, DMR: How do you deal with bats or resident wildlife species that don't fit under migratory birds? Or the MMA  (Call them marine mammals when they're flying over the ocean.

BYRUM. Certainly that would be monitored and that effort would be  processed by  our avian biologist who would coordinate with our NEPA process. 

KARIN TILBERG, GOVERNOR'S REP  Is BOEMRE going to be in charge of the EIS?   Will you  do the scoping sessions and the hearings and publish the draft and then final?


TILBERG.  Let's say that there's an unsolicited bid that comes in, and you publish. and you determine no competitive interest  Then a SAP comes in, A Siite Assessment Plan,  and you determine that there should be an NEPA review of that, that would be fe comes under the definiteand there should be an EIS?


TILBERG  Would you take the data that the applicant has submitted and share it with all those federal and state agencies? How do you start?  What happens when that you get the data and then how do  you have all of those federal state agencies look at it to form the actual EIS?

BORNHOLDT   We have a lot of tools available to us. One under NEPA  that we can do and have done in our oil and gas program and sand and gravel programs that actually helped are  cooperating agency agreements.
Let's say the avian data.  Yes, we have an avian biologist on staff.  But we know it would be better that if we had a cooperating agency bureau like Fish and Wild life Service, to help us do the analytics associated with evaluating the impact of that particular project to that particular species at hand.

So we have cooperating agency groups. We can work with other agencies to have a formal working relationship and understanding that's something we can do. We do it with  Coast Guard and Corps of Engineers .

The other tool that  we have,  the one we haven't used yet, is the folks around the table. This task force in helping to share the information we have  or that we get from an applicant.

As your example offers, Karen, we were hoping that when we come in with our site assessment plans, we share that plan with the task force, so they can understand what will be evaluated, what the applicant is proposing, as well as any other data that they filed.  We do have that requirement in our Subpart F group plans - that they give us  any kind of information that they have, that we will share that.

Also too when hopefully before we get an unsolicited proposal, we have resources around the table, whether it is the fish and wildlife service at the federal level or your state DNR that has data with regard to ducks and other fowl and avians, fish and wildlife of interest, whether its recreational hunting use or protection issue.

We have the folks around the table who have that data. That can help inform the analysis with regard to the scenarios for the proposed actions.

 So we have all these tools: formal under NEPA - I know that Tim Timmerman can speak to this more eloquently than either Algene or I.

We have the cooperating agency groups, where  you have a formal agreement to have the other federal entity do some work with you on a particular timeframe, particularly  when they're the subject matter expert.  

The other tool that we have is what we have around the table, this collective of knowledge skill sets and data that we can bring in front of the system.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE BRUCE MACDONALD . What's confusing to a person like me is looking at all these agencies who are involved.  What standing do their findings have in the final analysis?  Would a Coast Guard finding that such and such a lease would be a hazard to navigation - would that be a show stopper? Or that birds are going to be affected?  What's a show stopper and what isn't?   And do you get to make that evaluation in consultation with us and all these agencies?  How does it work?

BORNHOLDT  That is the bazillion dollar question. That is really the crux of it. The slide  that Algene has that  shows the federal agencies, and the two slides that show the Act's requirements;  that's what makes any development in the ocean environment a challenge.

Because we are the lead for NEPA and our goal there is to hope that the investment that the federal government, that you all invest in us in doing the kind of an environmental analysis,  can then help inform Coast Guard when they have to make their decisions, Corp of Engineers when they have to make their decisions with regard to siting and permitting etc.

With regard to weighing the other resource agencies: it depends. If it's a statutory authority under the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird, Marine Mammal Protection Act, those acts call out what that resource agency's responsibilities are.

So in the context for that, let's say if it was a protected species under the endangered species act. We go through our environmental impact analysis to be able to inform us that BOEM using all the skills scattered around the table, using the cooperating agency agreement.

We develop what is called a biological assessment with regard to that particular critter that we want to  consult with state fish and wildlife  We give F&WS that biological assessment; they use that then to evaluate the responsibilities they have under the ESA for that particular critter and they advise us of what sort of requirements must be required of the lessee.

You saw Algene had that lease requirement?  Lease stipulation element;  we could get a biological opinion back that says "no jeopardy". But these are thing you MUST do,  these are the sort of activities we advise you to do, etc.

We don't tell them how to do their business. They inform us, in the context of the proposal, how the proposal could affect that particular species;  if it's okay to go forward with conditions, or if it is not. And so then we fold that into our decision making.  

That's why I said that it depends. We hope to make the NEPA documentation and help other agencies with their responsibilities There are offsets of that that we cull out; we call it a Biological Assessment, to be able to address a particular species that must be consulted on.

 For EFH - Essential Fish Habitat,  there's usually a section in our NEPA document that calls to that point and shows that analysis, if its embedded in the cost-analysis.   So we use the NEPA document as the mother document; that's why it's important to have cooperating agency agreements  and a good working relationship; make sure that's the best document it can be, so it's a multipurpose document.  

But in no way do I as BOEMRE tell the Fish and Wildlife Service how to come out with its Biological Opinion.  I will give them my Biological Assessment that we do on that particular animal with regard to its habitat etc,  and then they use that as a basis to inform their decision.

So its quite an art form.  So there's no simple answer, but in the end of the day, the decision to issue a lease resides in our agency, and we have to do some balancing the bal but we do not overtake their responsibilities under ESA.

RON BECK ,  1ST DISTRICT US COAST GUARD From a timing standpoint one of the points I wanted to make is that we try to work with harbor safety committees, port safety committees, before the draft EIS,  so we are up to speed about what the local concerns are and get our work in to BOEM before the draft Environmental Impact Statement

 This allows for a couple of things. When the public hearing occur, that on the table  Public op-comment period is available to you to come back  and say "well this rally should be seen in a different way".  So we're very conscious about trying to do our work as efficiently and as early as possible, so that the whole public process gets supported through both the hearings the public meetings, and the comments period.

TIM TIMMERMAN, US EPA. I want to go back to question about how you make an EIS  how you make that sausage  that's an EIS.  I have a question for you Maureen:  Since we haven't done one of these through this program, an applicant submits information that you guys use to create an EIS. You get input from the agencies about whether or not we want to see more things.   You gather information that we have based on our expertise.  

If there is identification of additional work that needs to be done for establishing baseline or  predicting impacts,  do you have a mechanism where, instead of going back to the applicant asking them to do a study, where you can ask them to write out a check  to fund a study that you or the federal agencies are in charge of?  Or is it always the mechanism that the information is provided through the applicant to you and then you have to vet it  and say," Is this done the way that was approved?"

BORNHOLDT  There are  several different mechanisms that we can employ. For example I am personally familiar with one that we used for Chevron in a case with Chevron in a case associated with leasing It was natural gas production. It was in the eastern Gulf of Mexico .
Kind of similar to what we're dealing with in Maine  in the sense it was frontier area and not a lot of data gathered.

And so there was certain specific information that we required that was identified through EPA water quality, that we told Chevron working with EPA there are the thing we need . You go out and get it " Because we felt that without that information their application wasn't complete.... We could frame the questions for the  analytics, but we couldn't do the analytics without it.  So in that case the company said "Okay I will do that."

There are other venues and avenues that we have.  For instance in Cape Wind,  when we wanted to do something with regard to I believe the long tailed duck. We got together with Fish  and Wildlife Service and Mass Audubon and BOEM put in money to be able to gather some data that we knew was needed to help us answer those question and  be able to do those things. 

So it depends on the type of information and the turn around time. As Algene talked to, this kind of long term study program that we can use to gather baseline information. and also off of that: if there are certain nuances or questions found or gaps or needs identified through that study, we can use that to help fund issues.

Does that necessarily help us when we're dealing with a particular  project?  No. But what it can help do is inform a question we agree around the table needs to go back to the developer, or one that we can all partner and arrive at the data or information. 

There's no set process.  It really depends on when you need the information and the extent.  If, let's say, they've filed their site assessment plan and we're taking a look at it  and there are some information gaps that have to do with the construction operation phase. We can also take a couple tacks with that.

We build into the regulatory framework some flexibility. To use the tools that we know work for instance saying conditioning the lease  or adding a lease stipulation that says, "before you construct, you must gather data on these sort of issues, using these protocols that we've developed around the table. So before you commit to the construction operation plan, we expect this data to be collected".  That's one way.

Another tool that's we've  folded into our regulatory framework is "monitoring". Let's say we discover that a particular type of seafloor is in this proposed area , and we really want to understand, given that  there's nothing there now, kind of follow its life through the life of the site assessment, construction operation etc.  And we set up monitoring for that area  ,because we're worried about burials or whatever.

We can make that a requirement right up front in the site assessment for the developer, either in collaboration with other agencies that are interested or on its own. Gather that data. give it back to us here and that can actually help inform the next phase of construction or just inform us generally speaking as a baseline. So we have a lot of different  opportunities available to us.

Writing a check and sending it to someone that could be an option. Sometimes that's not the best option  I think the best tool comes when we around the table develop the understanding as to the protocols, to be able to gather the data, to be able to use the data in our NEPA documents   and them develop together hopefully the monitoring for that  To me that's  proven benefit from working with sand and gravel, and we're hoping  to use it here.  We have various tools that we can use.

ARTHUR SPIESS,  STATE ARCHAEOLOGIST  Does the site assessment work include the powerline cables all the way to, for example, a substation connection? They have to come ashore somewhere.  Where does your responsibility stop and somebody else's  environmental review responsibility take over?  All the way out to the onshore substation?

BORNHOLDT Because our NEPA takes a look at not only just those areas that we have specific jurisdiction, but it takes a look  at the environmental footprint of the whole project, so even though were three miles out,  we take a look at everything.

KATHLEEN LEYDEN, ME COASTAL PROGRAM.  A two part question. One: states are trying to encourage the development of renewables and it's emerging as a national priority as well. Are there any incentives?   Mo,  you mentioned in the Cape Wind situation of actually helping to finance a bird study. Are there any other incentives there for the environmental work that  burden an emerging industry with a lot of requirements for that?

Second, do you use adaptive management types of approaches to have monitoring after the lease ?  Then is there an opportunity to affect the lease that's been granted or the operations  of the company?

BORNHOLDT  In fact we did build in that adaptive management philosophy into our regulatory framework. We knew that we would be taking a look at emerging technologies in areas that we didn't have a lot of reliable data.  So we have a provision that we can identify through our site assessment and construction operation plan review. Identify certain resources or activity that we would want to have monitored, and call that out. 

Let's say it was endangered species. Let's say,  F&WS  says " Okay fine, we can give 'No Jeopardy', but these are things you must include: develop a monitoring program following these monitoring protocols, and give us the data". 

Let's say we engage in that, and we find out that it isn't as  what we thought it was going to be. We could hope that the requirements in place  on the facility would result in a certainty factor that there are more birds being taken, say.  

What we can do under our rule with that lease is say: STOP. We've gathered this data  that shows that things have changed. We need to reinitiate consultation with Fish and Wildlife Service, and we need to retool the operations and take a look at it. So we can do that. So we've built that in.

We knew that we would be operating in basically new frontier areas with regard to environmental information coupled with brand new technology that was constantly evolving. So gave it an ability to do that. We call it an adaptive management philosophy.

It also can work the other way. Let's say we monitored for a particular effect on a particular resource.  And were getting really really good results. It's even better that we thought it would be. Then we can actually take that "lessons learned"  and apply it in the same area in analogous situations. We say "Hey we don't have to rachet down  and become more rigorous. We going to stay this course. This looks really good."

So they get that feedback.  It's not data that goes to a black hole. Its data that actually helps inform the operator as well as future operations in the area.

Jeff Arkin-Davis (?)  USFWS? Would you go back to slide 3?  For purposes of Section 7 consultation under the Endangered  Species  Act,  it would appear that your lease sale,  your SAP (Site Assessment Plan) and a COP, (Construction and Operation Plan), those are three things that you separately offer.  Are there three separate consultations for purposes of the Endangered Species Act?

BORNHOLDT  What we've done with other resource agencies, for example up in Alaska when we do oil and gas lease sales, we realized that this kind of framing and phased consultation can be burdensome.   

So what we have done is,  we have put together the lease sale EIS and the SAP (Site Assessment Plan) consultations.  Together, because we know that the site assessment activities are purely that - they are site assessment activities. They're doing the geophysical testing, the geotechnical testing, they're just gathering data. So that to us is a very reasonable way to couple it. We would work with  fish and wildlife service and NOAA Fisheries Office on that.

And then we know where the rubber meets the road will be the construction and operation plan, because that's where the specifics come.   So we do have this kind of two tier stage. But if a resource agency wanted to do all three, that would work with us. We can talk about how we want to stage this.

QUESTION. In working with FERC with some of the tidal federal energy projects there are often times   disagreements concerning much of the baseline information.  Its critical in order for a robust and proper roadmap, assessment, to understand what's present here today .

BORNHOLDT  We all have to take a look at what is being proposed.  Using the best available information.  I think one of the advantages of having kind of a phased approach where you have leasing and site assessment here, and construction/operation, is that some of the baseline data that you need can be collected through that site assessment period and really inform that construction operation plan.   

Even though as Algene has on the slide here, that the EIS has to take a look at  the activities that could be authorized by the lease. But you know that you have  a more refined evaluation scoping down to that construction operation plan at a later stage so it can allow for both.

I think the key thing, which is why we have this dialog around this table, is that we can talk about these issues as to what's the info we have out there now and what can that support and what it cannot support. If those are activities that it cannot support, is there a way we can use desktop analytics or some analogous situations?  Knowing that when it comes to the construction operation plan, that could be five years?  

Perhaps. Tim (Timmerman, EPA)  talked about the site assessment period, where you've gathering that data: Take advantage of that time.  Whether it's the developer specifically gathering the data, or us as a task force, or BOEMRE using its scientific environmental studies program to collect that data. Or just us    wanting to do something extra. We have that time period.

SAMANTHA HORN-OLSEN, LURC  You mentioned there were best management practices that were created. What is the source of those and are they standard for all leases? Or for individual leases?

A.  We couldn't find a copy of the best management practices . [Unintelligible...]

KARIN TILBERG.  I'll just throw an idea out that we can think about for our discussion later under agency action plans for the next meeting: 

It would seem like this move of agencies and state officials, tribal representatives that. We might try to get a sense from each sector what the key questions are they would be looking at under their respective statute?  

Should there be a SAP or COP coming forth -a  Site Assessment Plan  and Construction Operation Plan - I think it would certainly benefit the state agencies to have a better sense of the specific kinds of data that the federal agencies might be looking at and wanting to see.  And then the key questions and any specialty issues that really might put a halt on a project.  For us to have a discussion around that.

 So I  throw that out as something that we might talk about at our next meeting. Likewise the state agencies would be happy to try to share how we would be doing a consistency analysis that we would be looking to do for any project.  So I just throw that out now and welcome any thoughts on that later today .

We have agreed to take two questions from  the public.  Normally we only take questions at the end of the project because this is an  intergovernmental agency meeting . Going to agree to take two questions right now,. The remainder will be at 4 o'clock

RON HUBER,  PENOBSCOT BAY WATCH  I have a NEPA question for you.  It seems that projects will be coming online at different times and different configurations.  I see that different states are at  different paces  on this. Yet you have a lot of migratory species, whether its tuna or right whales or humpback whales or seabirds, that transit the whole coast.

And so my NEPA question is:  how can you coordinate these when, for example a project in the Gulf of Maine that will have a minimal impact on perhaps, tuna, with a project  off of South Carolina that  might have a minor but significant impact on tuna;  that impact caused the one up in the Gulf of Maine to be more significant that it would have been if it hadn't happened.

How do you keep readjusting the sort of NEPA review? Is it possible you'll do an entire coast wide environmental impact study, or is it going to be piecemeal, region by region, state by state?

BORNHOLDT That is an excellent question because that is one of the challenges of managing ocean energy development. It's the fact that the critters are not bounded by mountains or passes .  You do have this wonderful synergy. In the Gulf of Maine as your example  pointed out to perhaps activities that could occur off South Carolina; how that could affect fish stocks.

That is going to be a challenge. There's no one simple answer to that question.

NEPA does require that we do cumulative impact analysis; that we take a look at the project and if we have an understanding of how it affects the specific environment that it's in. But also the issue associated with footprints.  Algene has a list of resources that we take a look at.

So when we'd take a look at impacts to tuna we just don't take a 'look at them on the exact project site. In the cumulative analysis we'd take a look at what other plan or past activities are  projects or past activities are ongoing at the same time this project would be in its different phases and doing the analytics  and then say "and this is what the cumulative impact of adding this particular project  on to this... the cumulative impact of this particular project would be to the fish stocks to  the tuna stocks", so it would take that into considerations

It becomes very dynamic and its a challenge to  do this kind of analytics, because then the next project that would come to Maine, or even perhaps off of Virginia, and how it could affect. But NEPA does give us that ability to inform the decisionmakers that even though they're making a decision on a specific project, that because of the Cumulative imp assessment,  that they have an understanding of how this accumujaltes and adds on to already existing stressors associated with the marine human and coastan environment.

HUBER  I guess you have to  ask the different agencies that Are here. the EPA ergion one will ahve to coordinate with the regions in the south and so on  and the other agencies too.     Will the different task Forces have to interact with each other?

BORNHOLDT   Absolutely and that is kind of the beauty of having our task force system Because we can reach out quickly tap  Tim Timmerman of EPA or his counterpart in the South Atlantic, let's say Florida, as well as the beauty of having the folks sitting around the table  because it's  not one agency doing it  alone We've have to really be able to  mine the data sets and the experience from the other  federal agencies,  state agencies  local elected officials, tribal governments because there's traditional knowledge there that can also help inform impact to resources.

I don't know if I can exercise government or not.  My name is Stacey Fitts. I'm a state representative and also was on the Ocean Energy Task Force. But I'm here as uh...a citizen. And that's complicated ,  and I don't think I'll get into that. (chuckles.)

My question is, in trying to understand the first set of flow charts that described one NEPA document, and then comparing that to the last side by side of the competitive and no-competitive and limited, I see potentially in the competitive vein, three NEPA documents, and am trying to get a handle on how that is managed by a potential developer in the risk assessment.

Because a lot of effort and money and time is put into creating that NEPA document, with no guarantee that later on they could be determined to be in a competitive environment, and lose the opportunity after spending a considerable effort.    

So, from the development world, it's kind of a convoluted view of the decision making process. Is there opportunity for compressing that? I've heard it can be compressed. Under what mechanisms is it compressed and how is that done?

BORNHOLDT.  I would hope that after we have this dialogue it won't be so convoluted because sometimes it's even confusing to me and this is the challenge of this energy sector. You're talking about some great ideas in addressing some key energy issues. Yes we don't have the data we have a host of environmental laws we must comply  with.

WITH  regard to your "no guarantee" issue: EPAC does require us to issue lease on a competitive basis, as Tim said. Unless the Secretary  determines after public notice that there is no competitive interest.

Remember that and let me give you an example.  So you have an unsolicited proposal request come in to develop. We engage the task force and we begin that process.

Once we engage that unsolicited proposal, and we go out to determine if there is competitive interest and then it is found? There is no risk that someone's going to come in again and try to challenge that.

Tim pointed that out in his presentation: that once we engage on a noncompetitive process, it IS that process. So at least there's that guarantee that no one can come in after you and try to steal that away.

But you're correct. There are these opportunities for all these NEPA documentations Tim also mentioned, I think Algene did as well in her presentation, that the number of NEPA compliance places is really going be determined dependent on the information that is brought to the table.

So for example, for a  competitive lease sale. That is something that our agency owns. There's no one benefactor for that. It is multiple entities are interested in leasing this particular area. We will do that NEPA documentation.  So fortunately in that case, a developer is not putting up the money nor the time nor the effort for that particular competition EIS. So then we issue the lease.

Then they have a choice. There is time that elapse during the EIS process.  You've heard Algene talk about the requirement for scoping public scoping and for the draft hearings; those take time.

So the issue then is, a developer can come to the table after the lease is issued, and the more robust information it has, to address those requirements we have published back in April of 09 to file a Construction Operation Plan.  They can short circuit one of those stops and say,  "I want to file with you BOEMRE, a combined Construction Operation Plan with a Site Assessment Plan.  Here my information ."

We still  have to vet it a s a major federal action. There's no waiver, people. We all have to go through those analytics, and we all want to do that because again, this is a new energy sector generally speaking, in an environment that we don't have a lot of information So then you only have to NEPA.

For a non-competitive process, we've learned from the sand and gravel program... There's no competitive leasing for sand and gravel, it just doesn't happen that way  -  so we thought instead of doing a separate lease issuance that not competitive,  and then evaluating their plan to actually extract the sand, what we've decided to do was hold off on issuing the lease, yet we will not allow another company to come in, after we determine "non-competitive". So we'll do the NEPA work on the lease and the site assessment phases.

 Again  the same thing could hold that I as a developer, I've gathered  enough information to actually complete a filing for Construction Operation Plan, so even under the non-competitive scenario, there might just be one environmental assessment done, if I have robust enough information to meet the regulatory needs that we've outlined in Subpart F for Construction Operation Plan. So I think there are ways to be more efficient, but I think that the  bottom line is  we have - and Algene's presentation really brought it home - all those federal agencies that have all these jurisdictions associated with ocean activities, that we must somehow be able to be on the correct side of the law and comply with.

And NEPA is one of the tools that we can be most efficient on hopefully to do the right kind of analytics  to help those other federal agencies with their decision making so we don't duplicate . So there are ways that we can be more efficient and yet meet the laws that we need to."

End of Question and Answer period 2 (Following  presentation on environmental process by Algene Byrum, BOEMRE Environmental Coordinator at the 9/14/10 meeting in Belfast, Maine)

Sep 24, 2010

Maine offshore wind - what DMR & NOAA asked at the 9/14/10 meeting. Part 1

Following the initial presentation by Aditi Mirani at the September 14, 2010 meeting of the new Maine federal ocean energy  initiative, came the first question and answer session. 

Maine officials including Karin Tilberg  of the Governor's office, Commissioner George Lapointe of DMR, Kathleen Leyden of Maine Coastal Program, John Henshaw of Maine Port Authority  and federal official Chris Boelke of NMFS Marine Habitat Protection, questioned Aditi Mirani and Maureen Bornholdt of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement's Renewable Energy office about the draft State/Federal Task Force Charter. Here is a transcript of that discussion. 

Q.  Karin Tilberg, Maine Governor's Office. "Can you make sure task force members will be able to get a copy of these presentations and list of attendees? There are a few folks invited who couldn't be here, but they want info."

A. Aditi Mirani BOEMRE  "All presentation materials are going to be posted on our website in a week or two and we will send out and a meeting summary for the members so people have their copy of that info about the plan."

Q  Kathleen Leyden, Maine Coastal Program. "Building on what Karin said, because Maine has no identified sites on the OCS in terms of local elected oficials, we were unable to really come up with a list of potentially affected 
municipalities, so the state elected reps here and folks from the county govt that were unable to participate today.   They are the proxy for representation among municipal officials. Just to clarify that.

Q Chris Boelke NMFS. As was mentioned at one of the other task forces, the Massachusetts task force, there is no representation here of the NEFMC as one of the major regulatory entities out on the OCS.  George, I don't know if you are representing the state or the Fishery Council right now, but I know there was going to be some talk between the executive director and the chairman and the BOEMRE. I don't know if that has happened, but I encourage that too, before you move forward. 

A. Maureen Bornholdt, BOEMRE Renewables Chief.  We did talk about that at the Massachusetts task force meeting last week, and since we've all been in kind of transit we've not made that communication with NOAA in 
Silver Spring.   To bring people up to date:

There was this issue as to whether or not the Fishery Council qualifies as a governmental entity. 

One thing we'll get into in this meeting, is, how can we organize this kind of meeting? We're following the rules of the federal advisory committee act in the sense of keeping it  governmental, so we do not have to charter under FACA.  

There are advantages to chartering an advisory board under FACA. Do not misunderstand me. But in order to have the dynamic membership, in order to be able to call meetings as needed, the flexibility to not be chartered under FACA is essential. But one of the issues associated with not being a FACA chartered committee is that we have to make sure that the dialog around the 
table is governmental, because if we have non governmental entities sitting at the table advising us, we're in violation of the law.

So we're reaching out to the folks at NOAA Headquarters in Silver Spring to get their reading and their advice  on whether or not or how they view the fishing management councils and if  it fits with what our attorneys in general law deem as an appropriate members. so we're on the correct side of FACA, we're going to invite them to the table.

 We just had the Massachusetts meeting, we  will be in contact with NOAA in Silver Spring and have that decision made.

George Lapointe, Maine DMR.  That's a good question, Chris. If the [New England Fishery Management Council] thought I was speaking for them without without consulting them, they would beat me with a stick.  I am going to the Council meeting at the end of the month and will talk to the executive director about it, and with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries folks about maintaining lines of communication to make sure that regardless of how the interactions go, we make sure they're plugged into this process.

Maureen Bornholdt: George, you also just reminded me the thing about the membership around the table because you do have those lines of communication and those stakeholders who basically sit behind you at the table, and  we do encourage that kind of dialogue.  So if there arrives the point that the fishery council can sit here, fantastic; if not, at least there are members around the table whether they are local elected officials, George yourself or in your every day profession, that dialog can occur 
whether or not they're sitting here.

Q.  Beth Nagusky, MDEP Commissioner: I want to make sure that I understood, Aditi that what you were referring to as the scope of this task force, when you said we could not alter the regulatory framework. I heard when we were going around the table, people talking abot the permitting 
process in federal waters, and you know concerns have been raised in the past about that about that. 

So I'm trying to get some clarification, about in this task force, what role would our input on the regulatory process, the length of time that the permitting process takes for federal waters, because this has been discussed in relationship to the RFP the Public Utility Commission has those issues, can you clarify that?

A. Aditi Mirani,  BOEMRE Maine Coordinator: We cannot really change our procedure in place, so if you are asking in terms of modifying the timelines, I don't believe that's an option.

A. Bornholdt.  We do have the regulatory framework out there. We call it a "framework" because we knew that we would be leasing for many different types of renewables. 

Aditi is correct; when it comes to a particular provision in the regulation, we cannot deviate from that  But there is a lot of flexibility in the regulatory framework to combine, for instance,  construction operation plans with site assessment plans,  where  a developer or applicant feels it has the information needed to be able to  meet the sector requirements. 

There is always  flexibility with regard to consultations. Jumpstarting some of the dialogue here. 

So where we cannot change a particular revision in subpart F of the rule, that's absolutely accurate; whether the dialogue here sparks an interest or, "hey, this sounds like a good rule change", there's an methodology to contacting BOEMRE to offer that up. In the context of being a member of the task force that's appropriate.

In the task force in itself, individual members cannot independently come up with regulatory changes that we will adopt. There's a whole process for that.

Can we change the regulatory provisions around the table? No.  Are there flexibilities for streamlining? Yes We can work them to the extent practical as long as wel meet our environmental requirements

Q. Chris Boelke NMFS . Not to be repetitive of what we did in Massachusetts. It may be worth describing a little bit of how this task force process, how you anticipate it intersects with the Ocean Policy Task Force,  the coastal and  marine spatial  planning bodies that are being set up right now?

A. Maureen Bornholdt BOEMRE  Develop our own mini spatial planning So when we go forward like we have in to Massachusetts and get down to this polygon and see if there's interest in commercial leasing.

Talk about our Massachusetts experience. We've had three formal meetings. Jess Bradley is our point of contact there. We've had three formal meetings in Massachusetts.

The first meeting was like this; kind of tedious, just to get all the processes out on the table; who does what on the state side and federal side. 

The second meeting was a rather contentious meeting.  We started talking about: what issues are there? What is important to the state and what's important  to the feds and the processes? We started out by outlining a huge area of the ocean and having this really contentious but really solid dialog. 

By the time we met last week, [1st week of September] a lot of work had gone on. Not only between the states, because Massachusetts and Rhode Island had a dialog associated with areas of common interest shared; but the states went back and took a look at its stakeholders and some of the issues there concerning viewshed and tribal rights. 

As well, we took a look at reaching out to the federal family. In particular, DOD gave us some really good feedback on some areas associated with the first polygon and when we all arrived at last week's meeting there was a refinement in understanding of what would be reasonable to go out 
as a first potential area to see if there was any interest in it.

For interest, the state [Massachusetts] moved a nine mile buffer out to 12, to handle the viewshed issues, which also handles some other concerns that they had heard. They also went out and took a look at the data that they had and explained how that folded into the identification of the RFI.  

We have Matt Nixon.  Maine has some really good data that we are going to also integrate into this, so there has been an evolution and so we're looking at this to do our own in-Maine mini-marine spatial planning. 

Whether we're proactive and do something kinda like what Massachauetts is doing, or whether we're reactive to an unsolicited proposal or a developer that wants to be coming intot hte state, we're going to using this kind of mini-marine spatial planning concept, so when the National Ocean Council is  set up for the North Atlantic, this can work seamlessly into that and we don't have to start over from stage one. The worst thing would be is to wait for that to be established. There would be opportunities lost; Maine is unable to actualize some if its goals in renewable energy. 

While we're waiting for the national system to be set up, we're going to go ahead to do our own, we're going to engage with you all to do our own mini marine spatial planning so we can link up, hopefully seamlessly with the national effort.

A. Kathleen Leyden. Maine Coastal Program. George Lapointe and I and Dierdre Gilbert from DMR represent the state of Maine on the  Northeast Regional Ocean Council also called NROC; a creature of the New England Governor's Conference.  Marine spatial planning has long been on the agenda for the NROC, drawing on the experience of Massachusetts and Rhode Island and to a lesser extent, Maine's spatial planning efforts in nearshore that involved the siting of an ocean energy demonstration site off Monhegan Island 

The national ocean policy that Maureen made reference to calls for the establishment of new regional planning bodies the NROC is on that.  NROC is very much intersted in not serving as the regional planner but having the regional planning body  a real strong relationship to NROC. We have 
representation around the table

A. Maureen Bornholdt The example of Massachusetts and Rhode Island is a good one, because they found after doing their individual state planning efforts, they had both articulated places in the sea that both states had an interest in. That already provides a venue in advance of the establishment of the regional 
planning body and that kind of interstate coordination. Ocean energy being one of the reasons why we're interested; so that each of the articipating states realizes their ocean energy goals.

Q. John Henshaw. Maine Port Authority. I wanted to follow up on Beth's question earlier about the permitting process and the opportunities for streamlining it. I participated in a conference call with MMS several months ago, where they described a permitting process that  could take as many 
as ten to 12 years. I was wondering if that was the type of streamlining that we might be able to affect through this task force 

A. Bornholdt. Why don't we get into the leasing process first, and then asking that question we can look at some of the coordination.

Q. George Lapointe. Chris and Kathy  brought up other organizations that we should consider coordinating with. In the other task forces you've had are there other examples of folks that we should logically think about having communication and coordination with?

A. Bornholdt. I think we did invite Federal energy from FERC because I know that's part of the RFP It talked about them as somebody we should make sure sits around the table and is informed. DOD.  

If you have it handy, walk through the lists of federal entities and the state entities that we invited, we have a pretty good group represntation here. The only people missing are DOD and ___(unintelligible)  

Q. George Lapointe DMR.  I was thinking more of groups who were not invited. Much like the NEFMC and NROC. Are there other groups that the other states... are there other regional non-federal groups that... 

Bornholdt. I think we have all the root organizations that can reach back to the folks that aren't at the table.  There were a couple of municipal regional planning bodies that were on that.  (the Massachusetts task force)

Maureen Bornholdt. Those were actually raised by the [Massachusetts] Governor's office.  After we have this first meeting, Karin and others from the state can assess, and I think that's what Kathleen mentioned as well because there's not a specific site, in lieu of specific elected local officials you have state reps. 

I think what you're going to see is this agains getting back to Aditi's point: the dynamic membership as we become more familiar with one another, know which direction we're leaning towards, we'll be able to identify the appropriate elected officials, either the local level etc.

And again if they can't sit at the table, George, we can at least try to put our heads together and think who can reach back and be sure there's communication with others.


Sep 21, 2010

If you love the Gulf of Maine...Hurry!

Help stop the federal rollback of  Maine's just-passed state law protecting Mainers' commercial  fishing grounds from ocean wind farm sprawl. Read the below and act! Write the federal ocean wind energy agency and become an interested party now.  Or forever be a bystander.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) has come to Maine and is determined to force the state to re-write its new state law protecting Maine commercial fishermen from windmills encroachment within ten miles of shore. If BOEMRE has its way, industrial windfarms will begin filling the view - as in these simulated windfarms 5 and more miles offshore) If you can spend a few minutes reading this post, browsing its links and emailing and telephoning the on the list below, you will help derail the rush by that agency to "expedite" windfarm leasing off the Maine coast.
Click on the map here to see what fishing grounds would be exposed to wind mills if every location more than three miles out is threatened with being 'expedited". Click on a fishing ground on that map to learn its distance from shore. For frame of reference, Enoch's Shoal, the dot just below Mount Desert Island, is three miles from shore. If the feds have their way, every fishing ground further from shore than that will be open for exploitation, with monopole windmills pounded into the seafloor, a la the Cape Wind model on Horseshoe Shoal. The empty squares in the map are the deepwater offshore locations where the UMaineDeepCwind Consortium looks to set up its floating arrays of turbines over the next decade

Read this one page pdf. It is an action alert and summary for the fishing industry on this state/federal ocean windmill issue.

Read the 2 page draft federal/ State Offshore Energy Charter and related one page documents supplied by BOEMRE at the interagency meeting, These are the tools the federal agency is using to pressure Maine into abandoning its ten mile buffer against industrial wind and allowing offshore windmills as close as three miles from shore


Contact the following people. The ones with asterixes were at the September 14th interagency meeting. (full list of meeting participants here)

Tell them that for the reasons above, you want the Maine legislature to review the proposed federal/state charter before the state takes any action on it. Further, if the charter does get signed, you want the legislature to require hearings BEFORE any state agency provides maps to the federal agency surrendering fishing grounds between three and ten miles of the coast to the wind energy industry.

Contact them now. As many as possible. Otherwise the federal/state charter will be rushed through - and ocean wind turbines will be expedited!

* Governor Baldacci (207) 287-3531

* Karin Tilberg, Governor's Sr. Policy AdvisorK 207/287-3531  Baldacci's point person on the ocean wind issue

* Hannah Pingree Speaker of House(207) 867-0966(h)  Reps and island with many fishermen Aware of how angry people get about windpower. Won't put it before the fishermen.

Senator Chris Rector 354-6571 Marine Resources Committee - district is richest lobster ground in Maine.

Representative Bruce MacDonald (207) 633-0570 (h) bmacdon@roadrunner.comHis district is lower Midcoast Maine including islands heavily dependent on groundfishery, shrimp and scallop and lobster fisheries that would be inpacted

Aditi Mirani, Federal offshore wind coordinator for Maine. (703) Mirani just completed setting up the Maryland ocean wind task force Here is her powerpoint presentation from the Maryland interagency meeting. (Almost identical to the one at the Belfast meeting on September 14th)

* Also contact YOUR state legislators, and our federal delegation Snowe, Collins, Pingree and Michaud.

Tell them to make BOMRE back off. Tell them the Maine legislature worked hard last session to finalize LD 1810 to protect the state's commercial fishermen from windpower encroachment on their fishing grounds. Tell them it is wrong to let the federal government just walk in, throw out this Maine state law and re-open a more than a hundred fishing grounds to ocean windfarm leasing.

Tell them Instead let's have the Maine legislature and the fishermen take a hard look at the plan first. And reject the plan if its not good for the state. NO rush to judgement.

Friends, a few words go a long way. A quick e-note and voicemail to the above, especially if you cc the whole bunch together, will help drive action the way it needs to go.

Sep 19, 2010

Sears Island. Press Herald editorial gets it completely wrong.

In their ill-informed editorial  Obstacles removed from Sears Island Development, the Maine Sunday Telegram made the call that Judge Jeffrey Hjelm's decision on the three Sears Island cases, "upholds a compromise that could give eastern Maine a cargo port."

Had the editors troubled to actually read the judge's opinion, they would have discovered that Judge Hjelm merely ruled that because the state has failed to find a company willing to exploit the island, there was no actual threatened threat at this time to the island and its critical groundfish nursery shoal. 

Hjelm specifically said his decision did not find fault with the issues raised by the three nature-defenders; only that since there's no port plan, there's no potential harm to be ruled about. Hjelm waited nearly two years to rule on the cases, waiting to see if the state might find a port wannabee interested in building on the island. MDOT didn't.

So, with time passing and no threatening moves by Maine DOT, Justice Hjelm had to dismiss the cases - without prejudice.   This means that as soon a
s soon as the state does move to bring a proposal forward, the challengers who raised  this case will be right back before the court. Stay tuned!