Environmental Defense Urges Rejection Of Cubin Bill

March 6, 2003
(6 March 2003 — Washington) Environmental Defense joined with the Conservation Law Foundation, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and other conservation groups in providing testimony before today’s hearing of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources on a legislative proposal which could grant the Department of Interior broad new authority over all offshore wind energy and wave energy installations, and over a wide range of petroleum-related industrial facilities within the 200-mile federal waters of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Today’s Congressional hearing is being held to consider a bill, HR 793, authored by Subcommittee Chair Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY), which would delegate permitting authority over offshore wind-electric generation facilities, wave power projects, and various unidentified oil-related industrial facilities to the Minerals Management Service of the Department of Interior.

At a time when America’s oceans are in crisis, Congress should not be trying to find ways to circumvent existing laws which protect the marine environment, but unfortunately, that’s exactly what this bill does, said Richard Charter, marine conservation advocate with Environmental Defense. HR 793 tries to do an end run around the present orderly evaluation of how America’s oceans should be governed, disregarding the work of two national commissions on ocean policy. Unfortunately, this proposed legislation is exactly the wrong way to go about realizing the promise of a renewable energy future.

HR 793 centralizes leasing, permitting, and royalty collection under the Secretary of Interior and would leave affected coastal states with little authority over offshore energy facilities of various kinds. A similar bill, HR 5156, was hastily introduced during the last session of Congress, but died in the face of concern about centralizing too much new authority in the hands of the Secretary of Interior.