Wave-power proposals alarm locals
US waters could supply up to 10 percent of electric needs but fast-track permits anger communities.
(Page 2 of 2)
Congress and the Bush administration have not weighed in directly on the process, which has received major government funding all over Europe.Skip to next paragraph
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Fifty miles off Vero Beach, Fla., a developer seeks a claim on 1,050 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean to try to harness the Gulf Stream. Tides are already powering hydrokinetic turbines in New York City.
Most of the permits now being sought and issued are for river projects, some of them massive and virtually unknown to local communities, On Jan. 31, for example, FERC issued a preliminary permit for a 3,100-turbine project in the Mississippi River near Cape Girardeau, Mo. On Feb. 1, it granted 15 similar permits for projects on the Mississippi, each featuring more than 1,000 generators to be sunk into the muddy water.
That move provoked criticism from Janet Sternburg, policy coordinator at the Missouri Department of Conservation. "We are very concerned with the potential adverse environmental impacts from this technology on the natural resources of the Mississippi River," she wrote in a letter to FERC, noting that the applications on file would affect more than 70 miles of the river.
FERC is mulling a plan by a Houston start-up to harness the Yukon River to deliver power to the Alaskan villages of Nulato and Galena, which are not connected by any road to the outside world, much less an electrical grid. While FERC insists it merely issues permits and does not make policy, critics portray the independent entity as more maverick than bureaucrat.
"FERC has a John Wayne self-image, in which it talks only to itself and not to the public it is supposed to serve," says Elizabeth Mitchell, a retired National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration attorney, who has taken a lead in challenging FERC's proposed hydrokinetic energy procedures. "As a result, FERC often shoots from the hip to the detriment of the resources it is meant to protect."
Some fellow federal and state regulators and experts are calling for FERC to create an entirely new permitting process.