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Governor Baker Appoints Verrill Dana Attorney Harlan Doliner to Seaport Economic Council

Massachusetts Governor Baker recently appointed Verrill Dana attorney Harlan Doliner to the newly established Seaport Economic Council. The duties and responsibilities of the Council include designing and implementing a statewide growth strategy for the maritime economic sector that includes clean energy. Governor Baker established the Council pursuant to Executive Order No. 564, which establishes the Council’s duties as follows: 

  1. researching and monitoring economic activity in the local, national, and global maritime economy so as to make informed, up-to-date policy and funding recommendations to the Governor;
  2. using best available science and information regarding potential threats to coastal communities from rising sea levels and extreme weather events in order to evaluate and improve the sustainability and resilience of projects in which the Council invests;
  3. designing and implementing a statewide growth strategy for the maritime economic sector, including: trade, science and technology, recreation and tourism, clean energy, and the seafood industry;
  4. coordinating state agencies’ activities which are associated with coastal community planning and investment activities, with the aim to stimulate sustainable economic development and create jobs in the maritime economy sector as well as to protect coastal assets;
  5. designate, for investments across the maritime economic sector, capital funds authorized by the Legislature and allocated by the Governor to the Council;
  6. designate, for investments in resilient coastal infrastructure, capital funds authorized by the Legislature and allocated by the Governor to the Council; and
  7. reviewing state programs and regulations relating to the Commonwealth’s coastal communities and advising the Governor as to their effectiveness.

The Seaport Economic Council replaces the Seaport Advisory Council.

Harlan brings to the Council over 37 years of experience in practicing environmental, energy and maritime law. He is honored by this opportunity to advance Massachusetts’s clean energy policy as integral with the economic progress of its ports.


Foundations for First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Head for R.I. 

The following was originally posted by Christopher Monroe on Verrill Dana’s Maritime Law Blog, Law on the Water Line:

Recent reports from the Associated Press indicate that massive steel foundations for the Nation’s first offshore wind project will soon leave fabrication facilities in Houma, Louisiana, destined for Block Island, Rhode Island. According to Deepwater Wind, the 5-turbine Block Island Wind Farm is scheduled to be online during the third quarter of 2016 and could supply most of Block Island’s power.

The full article can be read here.


Wind Industry Service Operation Vessels Christened in Germany 

The following was originally posted by Christopher Monroe on Verrill Dana’s Maritime Law Blog, Law on the Water Line:

Siemens and ESVAGT A/S recently announced the christenings of two purpose-built Service Operation Vessels (SOV’s) specifically engineered to service and maintain offshore wind power plants. According to company literature, the christenings demonstrate ESVAGT’s ongoing commitment to transfer their maritime vessel competencies from offshore oil and gas to the somewhat younger offshore wind industry.

While ESVAGT owns the service vessels, Siemens provides their proprietary BlueDriveTM propulsion system to reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, as well as hydraulic systems to support the Amplemann active access gangway. The new vessels will purportedly revolutionize offshore wind service by increasing productivity, accelerating response times, and implementing advanced safety mechanisms that will allow turbine access in significant wave heights of up to 2.5 meters (8.2 ft), which is higher than the safety limits of traditional crew transfer vessels (CTV).

The recent investment in the purpose-built vessels reflects a global trend in the offshore wind industry to build wind facilities further offshore. The two recently-christened vessels will service the North Sea and Baltic Sea, while a third vessel will join the fleet in autumn 2016 and service wind facilities off the east coast of England.


USFWS Explores MBTA Incidental Take Permit

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it is looking into the creation of an incidental take permitting program under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  Currently the regulations under the MBTA only authorize incidental take for hunting; military readiness; scientific collection, falconry and other special purposes; and to control birds that cause depredation.  

USFWS will be preparing a programatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) to evaluate the impacts of setting up a comprehensive incidental take permitting program.  Four initial options have been identified:

  • Programmatic authorization for take associated with certain activities and industries.  The activities initially identified by USFWS are oil, gas and wastewater disposal pits; gas exhaust pipes at oil production facilities; communication towers; and electric transmission and distribution lines.  Other activities, specifically wind energy generation, are under consideration.
  • Individual permits authorizing activities on a case-by-case basis.  This option could exist in tandem with the programatic authorization option to permit incidental take for activities not included in the programmatic exemption.
  • Memoranda of understanding with federal agencies.  This is analogous to a programmatic authorization for incidental take caused by federal agency activities.  Whether such an MOU would authorize take by a third party acting under a federal regulatory program (e.g. pursuant to an Army Corps Section 404 permit) is under consideration.
  • Voluntary guidance.  This option would be a continuation of the status quo, where USFWS would not provide legal authorization in the form of a permit, but would use its enforcement discretion to give a pass to activities conducted in accordance with its guidance.  

USFWS will be accepting comments regarding its initial proposals until July 27.  In the meantime, USFWS is holding “open houses” on its proposal and will present a webinar on July 8.  USFWS has also created a website just for the MBTA rulemaking.

Hundreds of millions of migratory birds protected under the MBTA are killed by human activity every year.  The creation of a permitting system that allows otherwise lawful, socially desirable activity to go forward without relying on USFWS’s enforcement discretion to avoid criminal liability is long overdue.


News Flash: Wind Power Reduces Carbon, Other Harmful Emissions

A report released this week finds that wind power plays a significant role in reducing carbon and other harmful emissions in the state of Maine by displacing energy generation from traditional power plants.

The study, conducted by Massachusetts-based consulting firm Sustainable Energy Advantage, examined the environmental impacts of the 431 MW of wind power existing in Maine as of 2013, as well as a projection of 1,782 MW expected to be installed by 2020. 

The report estimates that Maine’s 2013 wind power fleet resulted in annual reduced carbon emissions equal to 1.1 billion miles driven by an average car. By 2020, the reduction in carbon emissions is projected to be equal to 4.8 billion car miles.

The full report can be read here.


Bruce Williamson Nominated to Maine Public Utilities Commission

Governor LePage announced today that he has nominated Bruce Williamson to the Maine Public Utilities Commission.  If confirmed, Dr. Williamson will be the third LePage appointee to the Commission, joining Mark Vannoy, Chair and Carlise McLean, Commissioner.

According to the Governor’s press release, Dr. Williamson is an economist at the University of Tennessee’s Howard Baker Center for Public Policy.  Dr. Wiliamson’s linked-in profile indicates that since June 2013, he has been the Senior Economist for the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Nuclear Security.

Dr. Williamson earned his PhD in economics at the University of New Mexico; holds an M.A. in International Relations from the Korbel School of International Studies in Colorado; and has an undergraduate degree from Cornell University.


Energy Infrastructure Gets Regional, National and Global Attention

Energy infrastructure is all the rage these days. 

Earlier this week the White House released its inaugural Quadrennial Energy Review, which “examines how to modernize our nation’s energy infrastructure to promote economic competitiveness, energy security and environmental responsibility.”  Not surprisingly, the report calls for major investments to upgrade and modernize transmission lines, pipelines and other infrastructure to increase security and reliability.  The report also states that the U.S. grid needs to change to accomodate the changing energy generation landscape, namely the growth of renewables and distributed generation.

Yesterday, the governors of the the New England states met for an “energy summit” to discuss upgrades to the region’s transmission infrastructure, and how to pay for them.  Although the states have differing priorities in many areas, the governors agreed on the need to invest in greater natural gas pipeline capacity.     

At a more global level, a thought-provoking essay in the economy section of the New York Times highlighted the vast gulf between energy use in the developed and developing parts of the world, and argued that greater economic development in poorer countries would actually reduce consumption of natural resources.  The argument is based on the recently released EcoModernist Manifesto, which states that “Intensifying many human activities — particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry, and settlement — so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world is the key to decoupling human development from environmental impacts.”  It is a counterintuitive strategy calling for dense, centralized human activity (cities, industrial agrigulture, power plants) that makes efficient, if destructive, use of natural resources so that the rest of the planet can be kept in its natural state - away from humans.  

So, basically the opposite of the back to the land and locavore movements.