Late last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) and the State of Washington signed a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) to coordinate their review of hydrokinetic energy projects in Washington state waters. The MOU is intended to reduce some of the regulatory barriers associated with siting and permitting such projects, while also ensuring that projects are undertaken in an environmentally and culturally sensitive manner.
As described in the MOU, FERC and Washington have pledged to collaborate in the following ways: (1) notifying each other of potential applicants for a preliminary permit, pilot project license, or license; (2) agreeing upon a schedule for processing license applications that will include milestones and encourage collaboration among various stakeholders; (3) coordinating the environmental reviews of projects proposed in Washington state waters and consulting with stakeholders on the design of applicable studies; and (4) agreeing that if Washington prepares a comprehensive plan with respect to the siting of hydrokinetic projects, in determining whether to approve a project license, FERC will consider whether the project is consistent with the state plan. Notably, the MOU recognizes that Washington may submit an amendment to its coastal zone management plan to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) for approval, and that such a plan may identify a limited number of areas within Washington state waters where hydrokinetic projects may be initially located. Whether NOAA would approve such a plan is unclear.