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Capital Report


September 2013 Issue

Former US Coast Guardsman Brian Salerno
To Succeed Jim Watson as BSEE Director

Secretary of the U.S. Interior Sally Jewell today named former Vice Admiral Brian Salerno as the director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which provides federal oversight for oil and gas operations on the Outer Continental Shelf. Salerno, who retired from the U.S. Coast Guard last year as its deputy commandant for operations, was to assume his new position on August 26.

Salerno will serve as the third director in BSEE’s history, following the departure of Jim Watson at the end of August.

At the Coast Guard, Salerno worked predominantly in maritime safety, security, environmental protection and emergency response. He played an important role in the Coast Guard’s response to Deepwater Horizon, and has served as incident commander for responses to several large-scale transportation accidents, oil spills and hurricanes.

Salerno was also a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Ocean Studies Board that explored industry and government readiness to respond to oil spills in the Arctic Ocean. He is a board member of the North American Marine Environment Protection Association.

Wyden/Murkowski Bill to Pave Way For Advances
In MHK Industry Development in US

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, respectively, introduced in August the Marine and Hydrokinetic (MHK) Renewable Energy Act of 2013 (S. 1419).

“Marine hydrokinetic power has tremendous potential to generate a substantial amount of clean, renewable energy in the United States and across the globe,” Wyden said. “The bill Senator Murkowski and I introduced ... will help commercialize marine energy technologies by streamlining permitting and continuing research and development, bringing marine energy technology one step closer to supplying predictable base-load renewable power in the future.”

The Wyden/Murkowski legislation will advance the research and development of MHK technologies, while also providing regulatory relief for small-scale demonstration projects. The bill will support a viable path for MHK technology commercialization. The research, development and regulatory provisions provided in this bill will help position the U.S. as a leader in this emerging industry, accelerate job growth and stimulate additional private investment in this sector, the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition (OREC) said.

The Wyden/Murkowski legislation authorizes an additional $200 million over four years for the Department of Energy’s Water Power Program, which is charged with supporting efforts in the private sector to improve the performance, lower the costs and accelerate the deployment of innovative technologies capable of generating clean and affordable energy from MHK resources.

The regulatory process for precommercial pilot projects can be an obstacle to the water power industry. Federal and state agencies are challenged in determining the appropriate permitting and regulatory policies. The Wyden/Murkowski measure intends a more efficient and timely regulatory process to facilitate the siting of precommercial pilot projects that demonstrate technology viability.

US House Tries to Rein in EPA With FY 2014
Interior, Environment Appropriations Bill

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee has released the fiscal year (FY) 2014 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill. The legislation includes funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and various independent and related agencies.

In total, the bill includes $24.3 billion in base funding, which is a cut of $5.5 billion below the FY 2013 enacted level (down 19 percent) and a cut of $4 billion below the current level caused by sequestration cuts.

The legislation looks to rein in the EPA, funding it at $5.5 billion, a reduction of $2.8 billion—or 34 percent—below the FY 2013 enacted level.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is funded at $1.06 billion in the bill, a cut of $401 million—or 27 percent—below the FY 2013 enacted level. The legislation cuts operations costs by 18 percent but maintains funding for programs such as endangered species recovery, invasive species, prevention of illegal wildlife trafficking, and mitigation fish hatcheries.

The bill includes $967 million for the U.S. Geological Survey, a $101 million cut below the FY 2013 level (down 9 percent). Reductions are in climate change, ecosystems and administrative accounts, while programs dealing with energy and minerals, mapping and water are prioritized.

The bill includes a provision prohibiting funds for President Barack Obama’s National Ocean Policy and requires a report on previous funding for the policy.

Industry and Native Alaskans, Fishermen Clash Over Interests In Bristol Bay Watershed
In a U.S. House Subcommittee on Oversight hearing in August, members of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology discussed protecting Bristol Bay, Alaska. Home to more than half of the world’s sockeye salmon, Bristol Bay lies next to what could become the world’s largest open-pit copper mine. The Nushagak and Kvichak rivers flow into the Bristol Bay watershed, and commercial fisherman harvest an estimated 30 million salmon each year from the region.

Building a mine in the wetlands of Bristol Bay watershed presents difficult technical challenges, and would endanger the commercial fishing industry and Native Alaskan tribes’ subsistence culture, which relies extensively on salmon.

In 2010, nine local Alaskan tribes and commercial fisherman petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to engage in a Clean Water Act 404 (c) to protect the wetlands. Instead of engaging in a preemptive 404 (c) process, the EPA conducted a Draft Watershed Assessment, which found that a mine would destroy 90 miles of streams and 4,800 acres of wetlands, and put the fishery at risk.

“EPA, in its role as a risk manager, along with its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act, now has the information and duty to fulfill the Congressional mandate to protect our nation’s waters,” Wayne Nastri, former EPA regional administrator, testified. The EPA should finalize the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment “as soon as possible,” he said, “to protect Bristol Bay.”


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