BLM facilitates renewable energy development on public lands through rules

Source: US department of the Interior

In support of the Administration’s work to develop environmentally-responsible renewable energy on public lands, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has moved to facilitate right-of-way (ROW) applications for lands with wind and solar energy development potential. Specifically, the BLM will publish tomorrow in the Federal Register rules that would allow the BLM, when necessary for the orderly administration of the public lands, to temporarily segregate lands in a wind or solar energy right-of-way (ROW) application from the location of mining claims or other land appropriations. 

Under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, the BLM is charged with managing the public lands for multiple uses. Under existing regulations, lands included in a renewable energy ROW application or within an area identified by the BLM for such ROWs differ from lands proposed for exchange or sale, which can be closed to the filing of mining claims. Lands included in a proposed ROW, however, remain open to appropriations such as the location and entry of mining claims while the BLM is considering the application. 

Since 2006, the BLM has processed 24 solar and wind energy development ROW applications. In two proposed ROWs, mining claims were located after the applications were submitted but before the ROWs could be authorized. Over the past two years, 437 new mining claims were located within wind energy ROW application areas in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming, while 216 new mining claims were located within solar energy ROW application areas. 

The BLM published two rules today—a proposed rule and a temporary interim final rule—to help resolve such conflicts. The two rules grant the BLM authority to temporarily remove lands included in a renewable energy ROW application and lands offered for wind or solar energy lease from land appropriations like mining claims. Through temporary segregation of lands covered by a currently pending or future wind or solar ROW application, the BLM can ensure no new resource conflicts will arise with respect to mining claims. 

Under the two published renewable energy segregation rules, lands with ROW applications for solar or wind energy development could be segregated. Such segregations would only be authorized as needed and would not necessarily cover all lands where renewable energy ROW applications have been filed. 

The rules would also provide for termination of the segregation by one of three means—by the BLM issuing a decision pertaining to issuing or not issuing a ROW for the wind or solar proposal; upon publication of a Federal Register notice of termination of the segregation; or without further administrative action at the end of the segregation period. 

The segregation would be effective for two years and can be extended for an additional two years if the appropriate BLM State Director determines that an extension is necessary for the orderly administration of the public lands. 

While the temporary interim final rule takes effect immediately, the BLM still seeks the public’s input and will consider any comments on the rules until June 26, 2011. The proposed rule will be completed within two years.

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