New Rules Facilitate Renewable Energy Development on Public Land

May 11, 2011

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has moved to simplify right-of-way applications for lands with wind and solar energy development potential. On April 26, BLM published in the Federal Register rules that would allow the agency to temporarily segregate lands in a wind or solar energy right-of-way application from mining claims or other land appropriations. Under existing regulations, areas included in a proposed right-of-way, remain open to appropriations such as the location and entry of mining claims while the BLM is considering the application.

However, since 2006, there have been complications as the BLM has processed 24 solar and wind energy development right-of-way applications. In two proposed right-of-ways, mining claims were located after the applications were submitted but before the right-of-ways 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. To help resolve conflicts, the BLM published two rules: a proposed rule and a temporary interim final rule. 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 such as mining claims. The segregation would be effective for two years and can be extended for an additional two years. See the rules in the Federal RegisterPDF and the BLM press release.