Bureau of Land Management to Establish Renewable Energy Offices

January 21, 2009

Photo of a complex tangle of pipes and equipment, with a large pipe feeding into it in the foreground and transmission wires running away from it in the distance. The geothermal plant is in a desert setting with mountains in the background.

The new offices at the Bureau of Land Management will expedite permitting for renewable energy projects, such as this geothermal power plant in Nevada.
Credit: Patrick Laney, INL

In one of his last official acts of office, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has helped pave the way for his replacement, Ken Salazar, by authorizing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to establish offices that will expedite renewable energy development on the National System of Public Lands. The new Renewable Energy Coordination Offices will expedite the permitting of wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal projects on BLM-managed lands, along with the electrical transmission facilities needed to deliver the energy from those projects to power-thirsty cities.

The Renewable Energy Coordination Offices will be staffed by BLM employees from a variety of natural resource disciplines, and will also receive staff support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other bureaus within the Interior Department. The offices will initially be located in the four states where companies have shown the greatest interest in renewable energy development: Arizona, California, Nevada, and Wyoming. The new offices will also improve the BLM's coordination with state agencies and other federal agencies, including DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. See the BLM press release.

The BLM and the U.S. Forest Service also issued Records of Decision in mid-January to amend 130 of their land use plans to support the designation of more than 6,000 miles of energy transport corridors on federal lands in 11 Western States. The amendments were based on analyses presented in a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) that was prepared by the BLM, DOE and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Defense as part of their work to implement the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The PEIS, released late last year, identifies energy corridors in the West for transmission and distribution lines that will help facilitate the development of renewable energy resources. The energy corridors could also carry pipelines for oil, natural gas, and hydrogen. Approximately 5,000 miles of energy corridors are located on BLM-managed lands, while nearly 1,000 miles of energy corridors are on U.S. Forest Service lands. Roughly 120 miles of corridor segments are on lands managed by the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, and the Department of Defense. See the DOE press release and the Web site for the PEIS, and the recent press releases from the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service.