On Friday, March 2, 2012, the Pace Environmental Law Review held its annual symposium at Pace Law School, located in White Plains, New York. The topic this year was “Legal Challenges and Opportunities for Offshore Wind and Hydrokinetic Energy Development in the Northeast”. The symposium was divided into a morning panel on offshore wind energy and an afternoon panel on offshore hydrokinetic energy. The afternoon panelists comprised of a wide variety of experts on the topic. The panelists included the following: Rachael Salcido, Professor of Law and Director of the Sustainable Development Institute at University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, Merrill Hathaway, Senior Attorney at Office of the General Counsel, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Julia Wood, Attorney at Van Ness Feldman, P.C. and Seth Kaplan, Vice President for Policy & Climate Advocacy, Conservation Law Foundation. The moderator for the afternoon panel was Ann Powers, an Associate Professor at Pace Law School in the center for Environmental Legal Studies.
The panel began with a presentation by Rachael Salcido giving a general overview of the current situation of hydrokinetic energy development and associated environmental impacts. Salcido described that the current challenges regarding the context of the issue involved the bad health of the oceans, limited but growing knowledge about the oceans, and the marine environment, climate change and the legal regime dominated by single-subject statues. Merrill Hathaway spoke about the complex issues surrounding marine and hydrokinetic energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulatory process. Hathaway gave insight into the types of issuances, the integrated licensing process and the importance of integration among agencies. Julia Wood addressed the legal challenges for hydrokinetic energy development from a developer’s perspective. Wood’s presentation pointed out that the number one legal challenge pertained to compliance with key applicable laws. Unlike offshore wind power, which lacks a regulatory framework, when dealing with hydrokinetic energy there is a very rigid and complex regulatory system that developers must work with. Wood explained, “there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, even for a small project”. Other challenges include technological and financial hurdles. The last speaker, Seth Kaplan, spoke on the challenges of hydrokinetic renewable energy development. He stressed the need for a mechanism to integrate planning for energy development. The panel concluded by fielding questions from the audience and offering their expert knowledge on hot topic issues such as economic incentives for hydrokinetic energy development.