Join Us for a Webinar on Ocean Energy and Adaptive Management

I am honored to co-host a webinar on Thursday, November 15 at 1pm Eastern Time (updated!) with the Maine-based Ocean Renewable Power Corporation, the first company to send electricity from any type of ocean or offshore wind-power to the United States grid. (Yes, you can still sign up for the webinar.)

ORPC is one of three ocean renewable companies to have blazed, and continue to blaze, a trail in successfully acquiring all the permits and environmental assessments necessary to test their device, TidGen. To get these permits ORPC had to collaborate with scientists, academics, and regulators as part of the adaptive management process.

Maine power

Adaptive management is a regulatory tool through which regulators require developers monitor their devices and sea life, to collect data, and agree to remove their devices if regulators get skittish of sentient sea life swimming to close to the machines. Regulators employ adaptive management because they do not know what the risks and impacts will be from putting tidal, wave, and wind power devices in the ocean. In short, adaptive management implements the precautionary principle.

As I wrote before, the Precautionary Principle (here, adaptive management) is one factor why renewable power is so slow to develop. People raise the Precautionary Principle for all and any risks they are worried about, no matter how unlikely. But the relevant question isn’t how to avoid risks, rather what is the worst-case scenario if an ocean energy device fails or falls off its moorings? Certainly that scenario is exponentially less catastrophic than a nuclear power plant’s failure as Japan tragically witnessed.

Thankfully, ORPC is ready to talk about how with the right approach, right mindset, and right team in place adaptive management is, well, manageable. Join us on November 15, 1pm EASTERN Time, for a free webinar. Go ahead: risk an hour for the chance to learn something new. What’s the best that can happen? You can sign up here.

Seeing the light? Government tells itself to collaborate and use mediators for environmental, water, and energy disputes

Hallelujah! The federal government shows its innovative, cost-conscious side by issuing a memo that directs all federal agencies involved in disputes around environmental, water, energy, or transportation to use third-party neutrals. It strengthens an earlier memo by

by explicitly encouraging appropriate and effective upfront environmental collaboration to minimize or prevent conflict and strengthen the focus on environmental conflict resolution ….

It says “all Federal departments and agencies should leverage environmental collaboration and conflict management approaches to minimize and resolve environmental conflicts.”

“I concur!”

The memo also ties in with an earlier 2012 Executive Order that requires executive agencies and departments to

work collaboratively and concurrently to advance reviews and permitting decisions, and facilitate the resolution of disputes at all levels of agency organization. Each of these elements must be incorporated into routine agency practice to provide demonstrable improvements in the performance of Federal infrastructure permitting and review processes, including lower costs, more timely decisions, and a healthier and cleaner environment.

There are more details that make reading the memo and EO worth reading in depth (just follow the embedded links above).

One question that I and many others have is: how do we ensure that these agencies and departments are following through on the policies encouraging collaboration, neutral problem solving, and stakeholder engagement? And yes these are exhortative policies that lack any penalties or incentives. Still, let’s create a strategy to get the word out.

1. Spread the word to everyone and anyone you know in a federal agency or department involved in natural resources, environmental, energy, or infrastructure permitting or planning.

2. Write a piece for a relevant publication: attorney bar newsletter, trade journal, your blog on environmental conflict resolution (hello!).

3. Meet with decisionmakers in executive agencies or departments that you know make decisions relevant to how the agency handles permitting, planning, and conflict resolution.

4. Inform your Congressional representatives that Obama has seen the light and wants his agencies and departments to stop squandering time and money on environmental, natural resource, renewable energy, and infrastructure permitting by getting into protracted disputes with stakeholders. It’s a time and cost-saving measure to use conflict resolution.

Oh, but you might want to wait until after November 6th because appointed and elected officials might have something else on their minds until then.

Recent Renewable Energy Policy Shifts: Sparking Development or Resentment?

Complaints abound about the US not increasing its supply of renewable energy quickly enough. Many reasons account for this from market forces for less expensive fuels such as natural gas to risk aversion from environmentalists and neighbors who fear impacts on their surroundings. Continue reading