Interior Hosts Atlantic Governors for Outer Continental Shelf Wind Energy Summit

Office of the Secretary
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Ken Salazar: Let me thank all of you for coming this afternoon. We have just finished the meeting of the states along the Atlantic - the 11 states were represented either through a representative or through the governors who are here today. And up here I have Governor Baldacci from Maine, Governor Carcieri from Rhode Island, Governor Markell from Delaware and Governor O'Malley from Maryland as well as a Senator from Virginia who will be representing Governor McDonnell.

Let me just say what we did today. We spent some time talking about the huge wind energy potential off of the - offshore of the Atlantic. These governors have really been at the forefront of moving forward with developing the wind energy resources off the Atlantic for many years.

We had a discussion about how we move forward in addressing the number of different issues in the offshore on the Atlantic. And I think the sense of the conversation is that we in the United States do not want to be left behind the UK and other countries that are moving forward with wind energy. This is about jobs and the creation of jobs here in the United States of America.

It's about the creation of creation of clean energy. And we are just at the beginning point; we have a long ways to go. We had conversations about a number of different things including the possibility of creating an Atlantic wind consortium that will help us work together as states up and down the Atlantic with the federal government to make sure that this new energy industry is one that flourishes.

We also had conversations concerning the importance of the federal government; streamlining its processes so that we are able to move forward in the permitting of renewable energy projects in the offshore in a much quicker time than has happened in the past.

The investors who will invest in wind projects will not come in and invest if they have to wait seven to nine years to get their permits. And so one of the things that we will be doing is evaluating how we can expedite offshore wind permitting processes.

We also had some discussion about the importance of transmission here in Washington as we have dealt with the energy issues of our country in the last year. We had many discussions about transmissions on the onshore. It's important that we look at transmission in the offshore because we have to get the energy from where it's being produced to where it's going to be used.

And there are many efforts underway where individual states have looked at - and groups of states have looked at the possibility of connecting up to a transmission backbone to the grids within their particular states. So this is a beginning conversation and we're hopeful that within 30 days we'll be able to formalize a working document about how we are going to move forward.

What I would like to do at this point is to call on Governor Baldacci to make some comments and the governors will just introduce each other so I won't have to back up again. I'll come back to take some questions.

John Baldacci: Thank you very, very much Mr. Secretary. And I first - I'm John Baldacci, Governor of Maine. And let me just say first of all I want to thank the Secretary for his aggressive leadership in getting us all under one roof, one consortium so that we're working together on the Atlantic Coast.

Also his leadership in doing a tremendous job onshore wind development. And to use the Recovery Act and the motivation behind it to get that pretty well 4000-5000 megawatts to be established by December which is a huge accomplishment.

We like that same energy and enthusiasm on offshore and deep offshore as the State of Maine is developing. We believe very strongly in the potential. As you can see Maine's long coast line, 3800 miles, we've already established an ocean energy task force, we've already pre-permitted four different sites offshore and we've been able to do with it with the support of the fishing community, the consumers, the environmental community and conservationists.

And to have the federal government putting all the different federal agencies together and creating this one-stop shopping we're very pleased to be a part of that discussion and want to compliment the President for his leadership and the Secretary for his follow-through here in the Department.

Donald Carcieri: Hi, I'm Don Carcieri, Rhode Island. Let me just say that - thank you, Mr. Secretary, for hosting this here. We all know that you're a true believer in wind power. And as states we are all focused on generating a portion of anywhere between 15%-20% of our energy needs from renewables and primarily wind.

And being a small state, well we're called the Ocean State, we are well ahead in terms of working on wind power projects. And this is something that I think we all agree the time is now. The nation is ready for this whether you come at it from an energy independence standpoint, a national security standpoint or climate change; whatever it is we need to move ahead as a nation rapidly.

And the governors - the Atlantic Coast governors are well dedicated to that. So we had a very productive meeting and thank you for hosting us all here, Mr. Secretary. And I guess following me is Jack Markell, Governor of Delaware. Jack.

Jack Markell: We are very encouraged by the meeting we just had with the Secretary and grateful to President Obama and to the Secretary for making the issue of offshore wind a high priority. We in Delaware - we - we were the first state I believe perhaps still the only state to have a signed power purchase agreement for a couple hundred megawatts of offshore wind.

That being said, this opportunity is much bigger than any one state. There are literally no offshore wind turbines in this country today. And there are 800 in Europe going into the thousands. This is an enormous opportunity. And it's an opportunity because it's bigger than any one state that will require all of us to work together and for all of us to work with the federal government.

And we're very encouraged by the Secretary's suggestion, the creation of a council of offshore states as well as his willingness to work with us and with federal agencies to speed up the permitting process which is a really important part of this.

A number of states including Maryland, Virginia and Delaware have already created a council to work together. And we think this idea of us working as all the states on the East Coast along with the federal government is a great way to go. So very much appreciate your leadership on this issue Mr. Secretary.

And with that my pleasure to introduce Governor O'Malley of Maryland.

Martin O'Malley: Thank you Governor Markell. And thank you for Delaware's leadership on this issue. Maryland has also executed a power purchase agreement for 50 megawatts recently partnering with Delaware in order to harness this tremendous American resource that the Secretary has rightly identified as offshore wind on the Atlantic Coast.

So, Mr. Secretary, I thank you for your leadership in pulling together the Atlantic governors. This is a tremendous resource. It is a tremendous opportunity for renewable energy but also for green jobs for Americans. There's no reason why we should have to import this technology and these products and - from other countries.

We should be able to develop our own industry here. And that can only happen with the sort of leadership Mr. Secretary that you're providing, that the Obama administration is providing. And I'm very excited and look forward to working with you and my fellow governors in harnessing this tremendous resource.

Ken Salazar: Governor O'Malley and we're - Governor McDonnell was with us; he had to leave to another appointment but Senator Wagner from Virginia is here to speak on his behalf so Senator.

Frank Wagner: And again I know the Governor wants to thank the Secretary for his forward-thinking in putting this meeting together to help coordinate. We're very, very excited in the Commonwealth of Virginia about our prospects for renewable energy. We have some of the best winds.

If you look at how closely outstanding winds come to the Virginia coastline particularly off of the city of Virginia Beach which I have the pleasure to represent we have a significant power capability and very shallow water.

And almost as important we have a very, very large substation within four miles of the coast that allow power not just from Virginia but indeed neighboring states to be put on the PGM grid which would basically distribute it up here to Washington, throughout Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Southeastern Ohio, the whole grid. And so we're excited about Virginia's participation.

We're also one of the few states that actually have two active applications in MMS here in the Department of Interior for the development of wind farms off the coast of Virginia Beach. And so we want to thank the Secretary and his leadership and we look forward to what's going to go on here in Washington and that we hope an attempt to help streamline the permitting process so that we can see this reality much sooner than later.

Ken Salazar: With that I or the governors would be happy to take your questions.

Ari Natter: Yeah, hi. Ari Natter from BNA. Secretary, can you explain why it's taking so long to get these projects in the water and how an expedited permitting process would actually work? Thanks.

Ken Salazar: The reason it has taken so long is frankly there were no rules for offshore wind development until just last year. When I became Secretary of the Interior we went through the log jam that had existed with FERC to have our rules become final. So we were able to break that log jam and now we have a set of rules.

And it's also important for us now we have those set of rules to make sure that they're going to work and that we're not going to be subjected to the same kind of timelines as the Cape Wind project for example in Massachusetts has been subjected to.

The reality of it is there had not been a priority with respect to renewables and with respect to offshore wind. There is a priority now and it is a national priority. And I think as the governors have so eloquently stated in our private meeting as well as here the United States is going to be left behind unless we move forward. And we can move forward much more effectively working closely with the states.

The states frankly through the governors - and this is both Democrats and Republicans along the Atlantic - are the ones who have led this effort. They've kept hope alive that somehow we would be able to develop a wind energy industry off the Atlantic. And we in the Department of Interior and President Obama and his administration are very committed to making sure that that happens.

Ari Natter: So can you explain how the - how you imagine the streamlined permitting process working? What's going to change?

Ken Salazar: Yeah, what I have instructed the Undersecretary, Wilma Lewis, and Liz Birnbaum, the Director of MMS along with my Energy Counselor is to take a look at how we are now doing it on the onshore and to compare that to what we're doing in the offshore to see how we might be able to borrow the lessons that we've learned from the onshore.

We have - we will be permitting up to 5300 megawatts of power by December 1 of this year on solar, wind and geothermal projects. We've broken ground and I've cut ribbons on many of those projects on the onshore. We need to have the same kind of acceleration with respect to the offshore.

Dan Goldstein: Thank you very much. I'm Dan Goldstein with Clean Skies TV news. My question is for you and also for the governors, how do you plan to coordinate the activities of offshore wind along with the current 5-year plan for offshore oil and natural gas development?

And also concerns about the military using, for example, the Virginia coastline. They've requested that some areas remain still off limits. How do you plan to coordinate all that and are you concerned that perhaps the move to wind would actually impact some of the calls for oil and natural gas development?

Ken Salazar: Let me say the decisions on the outer continental shelf and oil and gas development are forthcoming probably in the next 30-45 days on how we exactly are at a point to move forward with those efforts on future oil and gas leasing.

With respect to wind power our view is that the best way to avoid conflict is by doing proactive planning, by determining where the best places are to site these wind power facilities and where the best places are to site the transmission backbone and interconnects that are needed.

And you only do that through proactive planning as opposed to simply standing back and letting the first applications come through the door. I heard loud and clear from the governors today that that kind of proactive planning is necessary.

So I'll let them speak on their own relative to what they think we ought to do then. Governors.

Martin O'Malley: I thought the Secretary said it well. I mean, you have to be - all of us have considerations and many of us have the Department of Defense assets that are important to us economically in all of our states.

And I think why today is so very exciting is that Secretary Salazar has stepped forward to take the lead on behalf of the Obama Administration to coordinate those brother and sister agencies, get them all in one room and have everyone agree how are we moving out here, what are the areas where we're going to be able to do wind? Where does it make the most sense? And how can we do this in a real timeline rather than waiting for 8, 9, 10 years for a permitting process to maybe or maybe not get us to the result.

And that's why today's exciting. I mean, we could send as many letters as we want cosigned by as many governors as we want but none of that is as important as Secretary Salazar's leadership in stepping up to say I'm going to de-conflict these various missions and make sure we clear the way for wind.

Ken Salazar: Governor.

Donald Carcieri: I was just going to say we have what we call a SAMP process, Special Air Management Plan. We've been doing that in Rhode Island for the last 18 months. Forty scientists, all of the different stakeholders, we've got fishing interests, shipping interests, all of that as well as the military concerns, that's a whole process.

The idea is sort of like a - think of it as a zoning of the water. And the whole process comes to a definition of those areas most likely - best suited for development of offshore wind so that you avoid those kinds of conflicts.

And one of the things we talked about with the Secretary was that's a process that each of the states have to go through because we're doing not only for state waters but also for the federal waters so that within what we call Rhode Island Sound.

So there's a process. We've been at it. We spent $10 million, 40 scientists and all of this. And it leads you to where the most productive areas in terms of building wind farms should be.

John Baldacci: And just let me say for Maine, first of all it's my understanding that the Department of Interior has an MOU or an understanding with the Department of Defense already and have been utilizing that. So I think there's a lot of great coordination now.

But in Maine we established a taskforce on-land and tried to do the expedited pre-permitting. We were very successful because in doing that you get everybody together, you sort out the issues, you have a large public outreach effort. And the same thing is envisioned with this Atlantic consortium is that government agencies, states are all going to get together, interests are going to be conveyed.

But at the same time there's going to be an aggressive outreach to the public in making them a part of them process. And I think you do all of that lifting at the beginning it makes the process much smoother going through so you don't have as many appeals and lawsuits and delays and procrastination. And I think it actually helped expedite process. So we like the planning up front.

Frank Wagner: I'll just add Virginia's case since that's where the primary military activity is. And also I know Maryland - we share a concern with Wallis Island and the NASA launching facility at Wallis Island. There's been a lot of lower level work going on right now between - particularly the Navy and the wind developers and an organization we have the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium on working through a number of measures.

And we think we identified many areas. It hasn't gotten the Pentagon blessing but we think we've identified a lot of areas that are in very shallow water with very, very good winds that will suffice to get a significant market going off the coast of Virginia without impacting military operations.

Dan Goldstein: If I could follow up with a...


Dan Goldstein: Can I follow up with the Senator of Virginia real quick? Do you see that clashing at all with the incoming governor's plan for more oil and natural gas development?

Frank Wagner: I believe that we can work around - the two are compatible. With the technology that exists today in oil and natural gas to be able to move the existing surface platform as far as 40-50 miles away from the (subsea) well-head, I think we can locate those platforms that may occur significantly outside of the areas of concern that DOD has expressed to date under an existing memorandum of understanding for oil and gas and the areas that they've outlined would not be acceptable at all for any kind of development.

And so I'm confident that the two can work together and but again DOD will have priority as they always have for Virginia. It's a very large part of our economy. And we value their input just as much as we hope they've enjoyed being in Virginia.

Ken Salazar: Question right there.

(Ben Giman): (Ben Giman) with the Hill Newspaper. Mr. Secretary, just to clarify this Atlantic wind consortium is this something that is definitely being launched or it's still being considered or if you could just talk a bit more about what this will or might be?

Ken Salazar: Today was a meeting of the 11 states along the Atlantic. What we agreed to do was to move forward in the formation of this consortium. We have instructed staff to work on developing the specifics of that and hopefully we'll have something to move forward with in 30 days.

Our view is that working together as states we can do more to stand up the offshore wind industry and create jobs here in the country and produce clean energy than if we do it alone. And making sure that there's the right federal/state partnership as we move forward will allow us to do the kinds of things that these states have already been doing.

Frankly the states have been leading the way. You've heard Governor Carcieri just having in his conversation about what they have done already in Rhode Island with respect to the zoning of areas where they think it's appropriate for offshore wind development.

None of that been going on at the federal level and so we hope to be able to work together to learn from each other and therefore to be much more productive as we deal with this issue.

I'm going to take - there's a bunch of reporters who I know are on the line so are there any questions on the phone?

Coordinator: Yes, the first question is from Ayesha Rascoe from Reuters, your line is open.

Ayesha Rascoe: Hi. Thanks for having this conference. Secretary, I wanted to ask you you talked about the consortium, I wanted to see was there anything else specific as far as the actions that you want to take that came out of this meeting today? Any specific actions that you want to take to kind of promote wind energy in the Atlantic or that we can expect to see I guess outside of the consortium?

Ken Salazar: What came out of it is a commitment that we're going to work on moving forward with offshore wind together. We do have in the Department now an appropriation from Congress to establish an Atlantic wind energy office. And we hope to be able to do that as well in the upcoming months.

But lots of conversation about the issues that we need to deal with; one is how we speed up the permitting process so that applicants aren't standing out there in limbo for a long time. A second was making sure that we weren't allowing speculators essentially to lock up the best places for offshore wind development simply by filing a claim and laying some kind of a right to developing that particular area.

Third was how we move forward with respect to transmission and making sure that we do the right things in developing transmission and a whole host of other things that were raised.

And so these - all of these issues can frankly I think be worked on together as a group of states and as a federal government knowing that we have a shared priority moving forward.

I'll take one more from the phone and then we'll take one from down here. Next phone...

Coordinator: The next question is from John Rickman from the Energy Daily, your line is open.

John Rickman: Hi, thank you. This question is for Virginia Senator Frank Wagner. I just wanted to know the status of Virginia House and Senate legislation that would create this Virginia offshore wind authority.

Ken Salazar: I'm going to call on the Senator since I don't know the answer to your question.

Frank Wagner: I will say that the bills have cleared their respective Houses and they're nearly identical. And we just had what we call crossover so we'll be taking up the House bill and they'll be taking up our Senate bill.

For those not familiar this sets up an authority similar to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Authority for the development of offshore wind, to coordinate activities, to accept both private as well as public contributions to establish met towers that we're going to try to really take a leadership role in moving forward.

And I've talked to the governor and I'm sure Governor McDonnell will sign the legislation as soon as it gets to his desk.

Ken Salazar: Go ahead.

Alexander Duncan: Hi, thank you. Alexander Duncan with Platts. You've touched on this briefly with relation to DOD but which federal agencies do you also anticipate being part of this consortium?

Ken Salazar: I will reach out to my colleagues and hopefully be able to get them on board but first Steven Chu at the Department of Energy this is an issue which is very important to him. We work on a lot of issues on the onshore, on energy and a whole host of other things.

The Department of Defense with Secretary Gates has assigned a liaison here for the Department of Interior to work with us on these issues. Jon Wellinghoff who is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Chairman, who helped us break through the log jam that we've had in finalizing the rules with respect to offshore wind.

So at a minimum they will be involved. There may be other federal agencies that will also be a part of the effort.

One more question.

Evan Lehmann: I'm Evan Lehmann with Climate Wire. Is New Jersey in the consortium? And had you envisioned creating some sort of template for example for marine biology or marine wildlife for example that can be inserted into various different environmental impact statements for different projects?

Ken Salazar: New Jersey as a state under the prior administration as well as the current administration, New Jersey has had a very strong interest in wind energy development. In fact there are a number of project proposals out there off the New Jersey coast. And so I talked to the New Jersey representative today is that yes they did want to be very much a part of this consortium.

In terms of the marine spatial planning that will be taking place and is taking place under some of our other efforts I think that's the kind of proactive planning that we're all talking about that we need to know where to stand up the offshore wind projects; they have to go in the right places and they have to go in in manners that aren't going to conflict with other existing uses of the sea.

And so that's something that will be looked as we move forward in a much more proactive way to try to streamline the process so that people are not hung out there for nine years.

Thank you all very much. And I really want to just say thank you to the governors because the United States federal government was frankly far behind the leadership of the states on this issue for a very long time. And I hope that today marks the beginning of a time with the states and the United States of America working hand in hand and standing up for offshore wind for the country.

Thank you.

Last edited 4/25/2016