The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued a regulation that it says will facilitate right-of-way applications for lands with wind and solar energy development potential.
The final rule will allow the BLM to temporarily segregate lands in a wind or solar energy right-of-way application from the location of mining claims or other land appropriations.
Since 2009, the BLM has approved 23 solar and eight wind energy development right-of-way applications. In two proposed rights-of-way, mining claims were located after the right-of-way applications were submitted but before the rights-of-way could be authorized.
The BLM published an interim temporary final rule in 2011, to be replaced by this newly published rule. In the two years before the interim final rule went into effect, 437 new mining claims were located within wind energy right-of-way application areas in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming; another 216 new mining claims were located within solar energy right-of-way application areas.
By temporarily segregating lands covered by pending wind or solar right-of-way applications, or lands identified as potential renewable energy leasing areas, the BLM says it can help ensure that new resource conflicts will not arise with respect to mining claims. However, the BLM adds, such segregations will only be authorized as needed and would not necessarily cover all lands where renewable energy right-of-way applications have been filed.
A segregation would be effective for two years and could be extended for an additional two years deemed appropriate by the BLM. The rule also provides for termination of a segregation by one of three means: (1) by having the BLM issue a decision issuing or not issuing a right-of-way for the wind or solar energy proposal; (2) by publishing a Federal Register notice of termination of the segregation; or (3) without further administrative action at the end of the segregation period.