The Permitting, Licensing and Environmental Compliance Process: Lessons and Experiences within U.S. Marine Renewable Energy
- Compile cost information for marine energy project permitting and licensing and monitoring and compliance (Peplinski et al., 2021 );
- Collect additional project information to provide context for these costs (Peplinski et al., 2021 );
- Understand developer and regulatory perspectives on the permitting process.
2. Materials and Methods
MRE Permitting Overview
- Baseline Information;
- Advance Technologies;
- Device-Level Testing for Environmental Impacts;
- Early Collaboration;
- Targeted Research;
- Permit Guidance;
- MRE Repository;
- Adaptive Management;
- MRE Collaborative.
3.1. Barriers to Permitting
3.1.1. Lack of Shared Information on Scientific Findings across Projects Creates a Conservative, Precautionary Approach by Federal and State Regulators, Adding Complexity, Time, and Cost
- ESA-listed species;
- Marine mammals;
- Terrestrial habitat;
3.1.2. Technology Developers’ Lack of Understanding the Regulatory Process Compounds the Complexity in Permitting
3.1.3. Guidance Documents or a MRE Regulatory Toolkit Sharing Experiences across Projects Could Be Helpful
- Identify resource topic-specific approaches (e.g., marine mammal and seabird entanglement, collision) for baseline studies needed to inform permitting, and approaches for monitoring and adaptive management (during construction and implementation), including identification of new monitoring technologies/instrumentation needs;
- Identify process recommended practices (collaboration, proportionality—aligning the risk with the extent of environmental requirements), ideally best practices that increase efficiency of permitting;
- Help applicants develop a clear project description which is essential for permitting clarity;
- Identify permitting requirements and agencies’ roles and responsibilities;
- Consider a way to have one online, easily navigable source that holds all MRE project environmental permitting documents (similar to the FERC e-Library (https://elibrary.ferc.gov/eLibrary/search, accessed on 12 August 2021), including MRE projects that are not FERC licensed).
3.2. Cost-Saving Resources
3.3. Lack of Technical Knowledge
- Advancing knowledge of marine resource ecology and potential MRE effects would help MRE projects in general, but project-specific research will be important to truly advance understanding;
- Some developers encouraged more studies on the potential positive impacts of MRE technology on the marine environment (e.g., reduction in coastal erosion, habitat creation);
- Some developers have found a “chicken and egg” problem between securing funding and getting through permitting. Projects need regulatory certainty to attract funding; however, they also must raise funds to get through the pre-permitting and permitting phases;
- Several suggestions were made for organizing future research efforts including tackle research by scale—“near” and “far” field or micro-/meso- (interactions such as collision, strike, and evasion), and macro- (where organisms first detect the project, resulting in changes to behavior such as avoidance) impacts; use new technologies and remote monitoring methods to improve understanding of species interactions and behaviors with MRE projects.
3.5. Project-Scale Strategies and Actions
3.5.1. Improvements within Individual Projects
- Pre-License Meetings: Conduct pre-license application meetings to engage stakeholders prior to site selection, to identify issues such as competing ocean uses and sensitive species, to select the site, and to develop a clear project design;
- Early Collaboration: Share draft permitting and licensing documents (e.g., environmental analyses, monitoring and adaptive management plans) early with agencies to identify and address concerns proactively;
- Experienced Staff: On a project-to-project basis, developers might consider engaging experienced staff, consultants, or agency staff to navigate and support the permitting process;
- Site Tours: Conduct educational site tours for key stakeholders to improve understanding of projects and their potential impacts, familiarize regulators with technology, allow other ocean users to become familiar with the project, and facilitate permitting of future projects;
- Study Plans: Negotiate study plans, adaptive management, and protection, mitigation, and enhancement measures;
- Collaborative Drafting: Collaborate with regulators when developing the Endangered Species Act biological assessment (BA), to gain an understanding of the level of detail expected by agencies and provide the scope of acceptable incidental take;
- Partnerships: Develop and engage in partnerships with regional experts and local academia to increase the efficiency and quality of environmental studies;
- Additional Efficiency: Ensure efficiencies throughout the project by innovating and holistically managing processes, to facilitate project licensing and operation, expedite deployment, and reduce overhead costs.
3.5.2. Phased Development and Permitting
- Adaptive Management: Use an adaptive management and monitoring framework to phase project development;
- Device-Level Testing for Environmental Impacts: Use test centers and small-scale deployments to obtain device performance information, identify potential environmental impacts, and provide data to regulatory agencies to facilitate permitting;
- Proportional Study and Monitoring Scrutiny: Develop and implement proportionate degrees of analysis, monitoring, and adaptive management requirements to small-scale projects, and use what has been learned to inform permitting as projects scale-up.
3.6. Industry-Wide Strategies and Actions
3.6.1. Establish Framework for Sharing and Distributing MRE Information
- MRE Permitting Guidance: Create, update, disseminate, and implement MRE permitting guidance documents, study protocols, and siting tools;
- MRE Repository: Develop a single online repository that houses all key MRE project environmental documents, including study plans, monitoring and adaptive management plans, progress reports, and environmental analyses;
- Workshops: Host or participate in MRE environmental workshops to share new information.
3.6.2. Encourage Collaborative Industry Development
- MRE Collaborative: Form a MRE collaborative of developers, regulators, researchers, and other relevant stakeholders;
- Working Groups: Convene working group(s) to develop study standards and guidance for monitoring and data handling of environmental topics (e.g., fish and fisheries, noise, collision, marine habitat); identify and develop technology for monitoring; and develop adaptive management frameworks.
3.6.3. Advance Permitting
- FERC Licensing Process: Improve the existing licensing process for grid-connected MRE projects, once impacts are well known;
- USACE Nationwide Permit: Continue renewal of the USACE Nationwide Permit 52 for MRE projects.
3.6.4. Further Scientific Knowledge and Technical Capabilities
- Predictive Modeling: Develop predictive models to identify potential effects to marine ecosystems and increase process efficiency through improved understanding of impacts;
- Targeted Research: Conduct targeted research on environmental resources with high study costs;
- Baseline Information: Collect regional baseline information to characterize the local environment;
- Advance Technologies: Improve technologies and instruments used for site characterization and monitoring;
- Opportunities for Research: Conduct research in concert with test center deployments.
4.1. Industry-Wide Efforts
4.1.1. Baseline Information
4.1.2. Technologies for Site Characterization and Monitoring
4.1.3. Targeted Research
- Tidal and wave energy device acoustic characterization (e.g., methods needed to understand and evaluate MRE device sound signatures under different ambient conditions) and the effects of MRE device sound on biota;
- Marine habitat effects, particularly for benthic habitat and community composition, associated with the installation of MRE project structures (e.g., anchoring types, transmission cables) on the sea floor;
- Fish distribution and seasonality in environments where interactions with an MRE device/s are likely to occur and the outcomes of specific interactions (e.g., tidal turbine collision).
4.1.4. Permitting Guidance
- FERC Website: existing documentation and guidance on how to obtain a preliminary permit, the pilot project process, and developing MRE on the Outer Continental Shelf;
- Handbook of Marine Hydrokinetic Permitting Processes: a collection of relevant statutes, processes, and agencies for permitting and licensing MRE projects in various states across the United States;
- A Citizen’s Guide to the BOEM’s Renewable Energy Authorization Process (only applicable to MRE on the Outer Continental Shelf): a simplified process document sharing the steps of the BOEM to consider competitive, and non-competitive leasing for renewable energy.
4.1.5. Data Repository
- MHK Data Repository: A user-curated database of DOE-funded research related to MHK projects that includes various research and monitoring data, simulations, and project reports;
- The FERC e-library: A searchable online document repository for all permits/licenses that are in the process of being reviewed by the FERC or have been issued;
- Marine Cadastre: A joint BOEM and NOAA initiative that provides authoritative GIS data and ocean reports in an interactive mapping tool. Available data sets include species data for birds, corals, fish, marine mammals, and sea turtles; marine habitats; ocean planning and economic uses; political jurisdictions and boundaries; and physical and oceanographic information (wind and wave speed and direction, surface height, temperature and salinity, nutrients, etc.);
- Wind and Water Materials and Structures Database: A DOE-funded database that contains data and analyses from extensive testing of turbine blades and materials for MRE and wind devices by Sandia National Laboratories and its partner, Montana State University;
- Marine and Hydrokinetic Technology Database: A crowd-sourced database that contains information on MHK technology used in the U.S and globally, including a comprehensive map of MHK projects.
4.1.6. Workshops on Environmental Permitting
4.1.7. MRE Collaborative
4.2. Project-Specific Recommendations
4.2.1. Device-Level Monitoring for Environmental Effects
4.2.2. Early Collaboration
4.2.3. Adaptive Management
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Project Scale||Improvements within Individual Projects||Pre-license Meetings|
|Phased Development and Permitting||Adaptive Management|
|Device-level Testing for Environmental Impacts|
|Proportional Study and Monitoring Scrutiny|
|Industry Wide||Establish a Framework for Sharing and Distributing MRE Information||MRE Permitting Guidance|
|Encourage Collaborative Industry Development||MRE Collaborative|
|Advance Permitting||FERC Licensing Process|
|USACE Nationwide Permit|
|Further Scientific Knowledge and Technical Capabilities||Predictive Modeling|
|Opportunities for Research|
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Barr, Z.; Roberts, J.; Peplinski, W.; West, A.; Kramer, S.; Jones, C. The Permitting, Licensing and Environmental Compliance Process: Lessons and Experiences within U.S. Marine Renewable Energy. Energies 2021, 14, 5048. https://doi.org/10.3390/en14165048
Barr Z, Roberts J, Peplinski W, West A, Kramer S, Jones C. The Permitting, Licensing and Environmental Compliance Process: Lessons and Experiences within U.S. Marine Renewable Energy. Energies. 2021; 14(16):5048. https://doi.org/10.3390/en14165048Chicago/Turabian Style
Barr, Zachary, Jesse Roberts, William Peplinski, Anna West, Sharon Kramer, and Craig Jones. 2021. "The Permitting, Licensing and Environmental Compliance Process: Lessons and Experiences within U.S. Marine Renewable Energy" Energies 14, no. 16: 5048. https://doi.org/10.3390/en14165048