Friday, March 30, 2012

Feds & Great Lakes States Sign Wind Energy MOU

Mar 30: A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on offshore wind in the Great Lakes was signed by the heads of 10 Federal agencies and the governors of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania. The purpose of the MOU is to promote the efficient, orderly and responsible evaluation of offshore wind proposals for the Great Lakes. The agreement was modeled after a similar MOU signed between 10 east coast states and the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2010. The Great Lakes MOU, however, carries additional significance because states own the bottomlands of the Great Lakes and ultimately have the primary authority about what can and cannot occur in those state waters.
    Numerous Federal laws and interests are also at play in the Great Lakes. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has Federal authority to approve or deny placement of structures in navigable waters. Nine other Federal agencies who signed the MOU also have regulatory roles or Federal interest in whether and how offshore wind gets permitted in the Great Lakes. The MOU establishes a Great Lakes Offshore Wind Energy Consortium (GLOWEC) that will make the regulatory and permit review processes transparent and provide insight into potential improvements to ensure that proposal reviews are clear and expeditious. With so many agencies involved, there is high potential for duplication and protracted review times that can be unnecessarily costly to both prospective developers and relevant state and federal government agencies.
    The MOU does not create any new laws¸ call for new regulations or change existing authorities. Rather, it empowers the state and Federal agency signatories to coordinate and share information concerning how offshore wind proposals are reviewed and evaluated with the goal of improving coordination among all of the relevant agencies and ultimately the efficiency of such reviews.
The cooperation produced by the MOU is aimed at improving efficiencies in the review of proposed offshore wind projects by enabling simultaneous and complementary reviews, and avoiding duplicative reviews. The MOU will send a market signal to prospective developers and investors that the Great Lakes region is ready to consider offshore wind proposals and that the regulatory process will be timely and efficient. 
The concentrated efforts made possible by the MOU will also shore up existing investments in offshore wind technologies by ensuring a regulatory environment that inspires innovation and helps to bring clean energy solutions to market.
    Tim Ryan, president of Apex Offshore Wind, noted that his company is excited to see the commitment to cooperation among the states and Federal agencies. "It is a good sign for the future of offshore wind in the Great Lakes. The MOU should yield lower costs and improve processing of permit applications, as each government unit learns from others' experiences." Mark Clevey, manager of the Michigan Energy Office and co-chair of the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative (GLWC), said he hopes that the agreement will lead to greater innovations related to sustainable development of windpower in the binational Great Lakes region. Victoria Pebbles, Great Lakes Commission (GLC) program director and staff liaison for GLWC said, "It's gratifying to see cooperation among our state and Federal partners that will hopefully improve the regulatory process and benefit all involved." 
Access a release from GLC (click here). Access more on the specific MOU including a fact sheet and multiple releases (click here). Access more information on the GLWC (click here).
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$125,000 For Two Great Lakes Protection Fund Grants

Mar 30: The Great Lakes Protection Fund announces grant awards totaling $125,000 made to project teams working to improve the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem. At its March, 2012 meeting, the Board of Directors awarded two grants that further the Fund's mission to identify, demonstrate, and promote regional action to enhance the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem. The Great Lakes Protection Fund is a private, nonprofit corporation formed in 1989 by the Governors of the Great Lakes states. To date, the Fund had made 243 grants and program related investments representing more than $62.6 million in regional projects to improve the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem. The latest grants include:

    Improving Water Management in the Great Lakes Basin: A grant of up to $75,000 was awarded to a team (comprised of 10 organizations) led by the Great Lakes United to complete a planning and design phase for a project to identify the ecological benefits and explore the financial rationale for pursuing water conservation and green infrastructure practices, and test how this information -- when combined with effective knowledge transfer techniques—can drive better water management throughout the Great Lakes basin. The award furthers the Great Lakes Governors' priority of adopting sustainable use practices that protect environmental resources and may enhance the recreational and commercial value of our Great Lakes.

    Founders Film: A Look Back to Go Forward: A grant of up to $50,000 was awarded to Ravenswood Media to produce a short-format film documenting the Fund's founding governors, their vision for the Great Lakes, and the steps they took to put that vision into action.

    Access a release from the Great Lakes Protection Fund with links more information on the grants and related information (
click here).
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