Feb 3, 2011

While Judge Hjelm considers Huber v BPL, a Federal agency's release of a draft EA on financing DeepCWind's start-up project off Monhegan could be a game changer.

All sides in the question of what standards ocean windmills will have to meet off Maine await two big decisions:

1. Knox County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Hjelm's upcoming decision in Huber v Bureau of Parks & Lands over the sufficiency of the state agency's review of the probable scenic impacts and impacts to migrating seabirds, if the University of Maine's planned  deepwater wind test center two miles off the southern tip of  Monhegan Island goes forward.

2.  This month's release by the US Department of Energy of  a draft environmental assessment of the environmental impact of its proposal to give twenty million dollars to the University of Maine for a pair of  deepwater wind projects. See earlier DOE notice. The plans include::

(A) One or more prototype 1/3 sized  floating windmills (plus  undersea test structures), off Monhegan, &  
(B) A single full scale operational 5 megawatt deepwater floating windmill, to be towed to an as-yet only dimly defined location, either off Monhegan or "20 to 50 miles" offshore, according to the University

The agency's assessment must be carried out according the National Environmental Policy Act and the agency's own strict NEPA guidelines (11pg pdf file; ignore the "SUN" references). According to the guidelines, the two DOE officials involved:  Kurt Rautenstrauch and Laura Margason must:

*"Identify any adverse environmental effects that cannot be avoided should this proposed  action be implemented."
* "Evaluate viable alternatives to the proposed action, including a no action alternative."
* "Describe the relationship between local short-term uses of the environment and the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity."
* "Characterize any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources that would be involved should this proposed action be implemented."

Link to the information and issues supplied by Penobscot Bay Watch to the DOE. 

If Judge Hjelm  takes an approach similar to the one he took in Huber v MDOT, he will wait to see  the Department of Energy's draft  EA: Will the agency agree with Penobscot Bay Watch that more needs to be considered bird-wise, beauty-wise, lobster larvae-wise, currents-impact-wise? If so, then he may rule in in Huber's favor. If not, not.   

Stay tuned. 

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