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Offshore Wind Energy Consortium

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the governors of 10 East Coast states signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on June 8 that formally establishes the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium. The new consortium will promote the development of wind resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) along the East Coast, primarily by coordinating state and federal efforts relating to permitting, environmental studies, technical and financial barriers, and the infrastructure needed to deploy and maintain offshore wind power plants. The MOU was signed by the governors of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. DOI’s new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will oversee the development of wind power and other renewable energy resources on the OCS. In addition, DOI will establish a new renewable energy regional office, located in Virginia, to coordinate the development of wind and solar energy and other renewable energy resources in the region. See the DOI press release and the MOU (PDF 28 KB), which is posted on the Web site of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Download Adobe Reader.

Several offshore wind energy projects have been proposed for East Coast states, positioning the region to tap into the potential of U.S. wind power. For example, on April 21, DOI approved Cape Wind, a 130-turbine wind power project in Nantucket Sound off the Massachusetts coast. In addition, NRG Bluewater Wind has proposed wind power projects off the coasts of Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey; Deepwater Wind is involved with projects off the coasts of Rhode Island and New Jersey; and a public-private partnership in New York State is developing a 350-megawatt offshore wind project. The Long Island – New York City Offshore Wind Project would be located about 13 nautical miles off the Rockaway Peninsula, which is in the New York City borough of Queens. Meanwhile, a recent study by Stony Brook University and the University of Delaware finds that linking a string of East Coast offshore wind plants with a transmission line would help to smooth out power fluctuations caused by the weather. The University of Delaware is also teaming up with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to develop a test site for commercial wind turbines off the Delaware coast. See the Web sites for Cape Wind, NRG Bluewater Wind, Deepwater Wind, and the Long Island – New York City Offshore Wind Project, as well as the press releases from Stony Brook University and NREL.

The Atlantic coastal region isn’t the only site with gusts of offshore wind power activity. On June 4, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) announced the start of a multi-phase review process for five proposals vying to construct the Great Lakes Offshore Wind project, which would be located in the New York State waters of Lake Erie or Lake Ontario. NYPA expects to pick a developer by early next year, followed by about five years of permitting and construction before the project achieves commercial operation. And in May, the General Electric Corporation (GE) and the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) made public their long-term partnership, aimed at the development of an offshore wind farm near Cleveland, Ohio,. Under the new partnership, GE will provide direct-drive wind turbines to LEEDCo’s proposed 20-megawatt offshore wind project in the Ohio waters of Lake Erie. The project is targeted for completion in late 2012. See the press releases from NYPA and LEEDCo (PDF 396 KB).

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Marcellus Shale In Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG — Department of Environmental Secretary John Hanger announced today that he has called a meeting of oil and gas companies with permits to drill in the Marcellus Shale to discuss what steps the industry must take to prevent gas migrating from wells and polluting Pennsylvania’s natural resources, which can create a public safety risk.

The meeting will be held on May 13 in Harrisburg.

“The Department of Environmental Protection has a constitutional and statutory obligation to protect Pennsylvania’s environment. That right is not for sale and is not subject to compromise,” said Hanger.

“Drilling for natural gas beneath our soil can be done responsibly without putting the citizens of Pennsylvania, their property or livelihoods at risk,” added Hanger. “I am urging the industry to come and discuss how to effectively and safely prevent gas migration, protect our natural resources, and ensure that what happened to the residents of Dimock Township, Susquehanna County, does not happen elsewhere.”

Last week, DEP took further action against Cabot Oil & Gas Inc. after it failed to address migrating gas discovered in 2009 from drilling operations that contaminated groundwater and the drinking water supplies of 14 homes in the region.

“Gas migration is unacceptable and the department is taking every precaution necessary to address this issue to protect our citizens and their communities,” Hanger added. “In addition to increased oversight, the department has proposed tougher regulations to meet the growing demand and new drilling technologies including improving well construction standards to protect from gas migration.”

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Hottest March on Record

The world’s combined global land and ocean surface temperature made last month the warmest March on record, according to NOAA. Taken separately, average ocean temperatures were the warmest for any March and the global land surface was the fourth warmest for any March on record. Additionally, the planet has seen the fourth warmest January – March period on record.

The monthly National Climatic Data Center analysis, which is based on records going back to 1880, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions.

Global Temperature Highlights – March 2010
•The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for March 2010 was the warmest on record at 56.3°F (13.5°C), which is 1.39°F (0.77°C) above the 20th century average of 54.9°F (12.7°C).

•The worldwide ocean surface temperature was the highest for any March on record –1.01°F (0.56°C) above the 20th century average of 60.7°F (15.9°C).

•Separately, the global land surface temperature was 2.45°F (1.36°C) above the 20th century average of 40.8 °F (5.0°C) — the fourth warmest on record. Warmer-than-normal conditions dominated the globe, especially in northern Africa, South Asia and Canada. Cooler-than-normal regions included Mongolia and eastern Russia, northern and western Europe, Mexico, northern Australia, western Alaska and the southeastern United States.

•El Niño weakened to moderate strength in March, but it contributed significantly to the warmth in the tropical belt and the overall ocean temperature. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, El Niño is expected to continue its influence in the Northern Hemisphere at least through the spring.

•For the year-to-date, the combined global land- and ocean-surface temperature of 55.3°F (13.0°C) was the fourth warmest for a January-March period. This value is 1.19°F (0.66°C) above the 20th century average.

•According to the Beijing Climate Center, Tibet experienced its second warmest March since historical records began in 1951. Delhi, India also had its second warmest March since records began in 1901, according to the India Meteorological Department.

Other Highlights
•Arctic sea ice covered an average of 5.8 million square miles (15.1 million square kilometers) during March. This is 4.1 percent below the 1979-2000 average expanse, and the fifth-smallest March coverage since records began in 1979. Ice coverage traditionally reaches its maximum in March, and this was the 17th consecutive March with below-average Arctic sea ice coverage. This year the Arctic sea ice reached its maximum size on March 31st, the latest date for the maximum Arctic sea ice extent since satellite records began in 1979.

•Antarctic sea ice expanse in March was 6.9 percent below the 1979-2000 average, resulting in the eighth smallest March ice coverage on record.

•In China, the Xinjiang province had its wettest March since records began in 1951, while Jilin and Shanghai had their second wettest March on record. Meanwhile, Guangxi and Hainan provinces in southern China experienced their driest March on record, according to the Beijing Climate Center.

•Many locations across Ontario, Canada received no snow, or traces of snow, in March, which set new low snowfall records, according to Environment Canada.

Scientists, researchers, and leaders in government and industry use NOAA’s monthly reports to help track trends and other changes in the world’s climate. This climate service has a wide range of practical uses, from helping farmers know what and when to plant, to guiding resource managers with critical decisions about water, energy and other vital assets.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the oceans to surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

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