BLM issues rule changes to encourage solar/wind development on federal lands

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Dec. 19 Federal Register a notice that it is amending its regulations governing rights-of-way issued under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA).

These amendments are to facilitate responsible solar and wind energy development on BLM-managed public lands and to ensure that taxpayers receive fair market value for such development. This final rule includes provisions to promote the use of preferred areas for solar and wind energy development, called “designated leasing areas” (DLAs). It builds upon existing regulations and policies to expand BLM’s ability to utilize competitive processes to offer authorizations for development inside or outside of DLAs. It also addresses the appropriate terms and conditions (including payment and bonding requirements) for solar and wind energy development rights-of-way issued under the regulations.

Finally, the rule makes technical changes, corrections, and clarifications to the existing rights-of-way regulations. Some of these changes affect all rights-of-way, while some provisions affect only specific rights-of-way, such as those for transmission lines with a capacity of 100 kilovolts (kV) or more.

This final rule is effective 30 days after the Dec. 19 publication in the Federal Register.

The BLM initiated this rulemaking in 2011 through publication of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) seeking public comment on a potential regulatory framework for competitive solar and wind energy rights-of-way. A proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Sept. 30, 2014, summarizing and discussing the comments that the BLM received on the ANPR.

The proposed rule set forth a framework for the competitive leasing of solar and wind energy rights-of-way both inside and outside of designated leasing areas. It also proposed codifying existing solar and wind energy policies, establishing a new acreage rent for wind energy projects, and updating the methods used to set acreage rents and megawatt (MW) capacity fees for existing and future solar and wind energy projects. In addition to the changes related to solar and wind energy development, the rule also proposed related updates to other provisions of the rights-of-way regulations, including those applicable to transmission lines with a capacity of 100 kV or more and pipelines 10 inches or more in diameter. Based on comments on the proposed rule and consideration of other factors, the BLM prepared this final rule.

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.