BLM works on way to fast-track renewable projects in Arizona

The Restoration Design Energy Project (RDEP) project of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and its Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office in Arizona supports the Secretary of the Interior’s goals to build America’s new energy future and to protect and restore treasured landscapes, said a final environmental impact statement on the project.

The agencies are taking public comment on the final EIS until Dec. 3. “Arizona has a wealth of renewable energy resources, especially for those technologies that rely on solar radiation and wind (Black and Veatch 2007),” said the final EIS. “The BLM manages over 12 million surface acres of public lands in Arizona. Wind and solar projects on public lands are administered by the BLM through right-of-way (ROW) grants in accordance with land use plans.”

The BLM is proposing to identify Renewable Energy Development Areas (REDAs) and a Solar Energy Zone (SEZ) for Arizona that include disturbed sites such as landfills, retired agricultural lands, or abandoned mines, and lands with low resource sensitivity and few environmental conflicts. The BLM also proposes to establish management actions, design features, and land tenure and reuse policies applicable to solar and wind energy development on BLM-administered lands in Arizona.

The REDAs would identify where solar and wind energy development is likely to be compatible with resource objectives, and the management actions and design features would bring consistency and efficiency to the BLM’s authorization process. Also, the BLM is proposing to identify a SEZ for utility-scale solar development. BLM resource management plans (RMPs) in Arizona would be amended to adopt these findings and measures.

The BLM Arizona office prepared the EIS to identify which lands across Arizona are most suitable for the development of renewable energy and to consider establishing a baseline set of environmental protection measures that would apply to such projects on public lands. Under current plans, applications typically have lengthy processing times as the BLM evaluates the project location, conducts environmental and cultural reviews, develops appropriate mitigation measures, collaborates with stakeholders, and, in some cases, prepares a land use plan amendment.

The purpose of the RDEP is to conduct smart, statewide planning to foster environmentally responsible production of renewable energy and to allow the permitting of future renewable energy development projects in a more efficient and standardized manner. The RDEP would amend land use plans to identify geographic areas best suited for renewable energy, establish land reuse goals, and identify design features to protect resource values and uses.

The Arizona Strip Field Office RMP, Lower Sonoran RMP, Phoenix RMP, Bradshaw-Harquahala RMP, Safford RMP, Kingman Resource Area RMP, Yuma RMP and Lake Havasu RMP would be amended to:

  • Identify REDAs;
  • Establish goals, objectives, and management actions for renewable energy development;
  • Identify REDA land disposal criteria for future land disposal allocation decisions and disposal actions, including land exchanges and sales;
  • Identify terms and conditions, including design features and mitigation measures to minimize environmental impacts and that can be used to guide development on any lands available for application for renewable energy;
  • Establish goals, objectives, and management actions for land reuse and sustainability practices; and
  • Establish goals, objectives, and management actions for remediation of previously disturbed lands.
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.