The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has announced a number of initiatives designed to encourage rapid and responsible development of renewable energy on public lands.
The DOI's Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released two draft documents designed to provide agency employees, developers, federal agencies and state organizations the information they need to make the best possible decisions in reviewing and selecting sites for utility-scale and community-scale wind energy facilities to avoid and minimize negative impacts to fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats. The guidelines will be available for public comment for 90 days following publication in the Federal Register.
The draft guidance is incorporated into two documents. ‘The Draft Voluntary, Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines’ have been developed for the industry to avoid and minimize impacts to federally protected migratory birds and bats and other impacted wildlife resulting from site selection, construction, and operation and maintenance of land-based wind energy facilities.
The FWS also has developed the peer-reviewed ‘Draft Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance’ for wind project developers and FWS employees who must evaluate impacts from proposed wind energy projects to eagles protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and other federal laws.
John Anderson, director of siting policy at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), commented on the release of the draft guidelines.
‘While AWEA is still in the process of reviewing the details, based on a quick review and feedback we've received from the development community, we expect to take issue with elements of the guidance materials,’ he says. ‘We are concerned that portions of these proposals will negatively impact development from the standpoint of commercial viability and lack the flexibility to allow industry professionals to best site projects in the most efficient manner while continuing to achieve the shared goal of protecting wildlife and their habitats.’
The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) final policy memorandum provides guidance to field managers in evaluating, screening and processing applications for utility-scale wind and solar energy projects on BLM-managed lands. This field guidance clarifies and improves National Environmental Policy Act documentation, streamlines the project application review and approval process, and strengthens plans of development and due-diligence requirements.