New Rule Could Boost Renewables on CA Public Lands

New Bureau of Land Management rules incentivize wind and solar projects on public lands in six western states, including California. (niserin/iStockphoto)

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Bureau of Land Management has finalized rules that encourage increased solar and wind energy production on public lands, and it’s making California a priority.

The policies create a competitive process similar to the way oil and gas leases are granted. The new rules also offer financial incentives to steer production away from key environmental, cultural and recreational resources, said Alex Daue, assistant director of energy and climate at The Wilderness Society.

“And this rule will ensure that our public lands continue to be a place where we can build wind and solar projects delivering clean energy, growing our economy and protecting the places that people love in the West,” Daue said.

The BLM said that putting some 700,000 acres of public lands to work in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah should help the agency reach the Obama administration’s goal of developing 20,000 megawatts of renewable power by 2020.

Shifting political winds after Donald Trump’s upset victory have put the future of many of the current administration’s environmental initiatives into question, notably the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Daue said he is confident the BLM’s new policies can withstand the GOP control of the White House and Congress.

“With the rule-making, BLM will be receiving fair market value for the use of public lands as called for by Congress. And western communities strongly support more renewable energy development,” Daue said. “We think that it will stand on its own merits and should stand the test of time.”

Under the old rules, he added, getting a permit for development could take up to two years, but the new streamlined process should cut that time by more than half for areas with high power-generation potential. The regulations will become effective 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register.

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