As my colleagues Kristen Castaños and Melissa Foster posted on the Stoel Rives California Environmental Law Blog, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced today that it will publish the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (“Solar PEIS”) for solar energy development in six southwestern states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.  The Solar PEIS is a major step forward in the permitting of utility-scale solar energy on public lands in the West.   

The Solar PEIS will establish solar energy zones with access to existing or planned transmission and with the fewest resource conflicts and provide incentives for development within those zones.  The roadmap set forth in the Solar PEIS will make for faster, more streamlined permitting of large-scale solar projects on these public lands.  The focus of the Solar PEIS is on Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) lands that are most suitable for solar energy development.  It identifies 17 Solar Energy Zones (“SEZs”), totaling about 285,000 acres of public lands, as priority areas for utility-scale solar development.  The Solar PEIS also notes the potential for additional zones through ongoing and future regional planning processes and allows for utility-scale solar development on approximately 19 million acres in variance areas lying outside of identified SEZs.Continue Reading U.S. Department of Interior Moves to Streamline Solar Development in the West

My collegue Michael O’Connell issued the legal alert below on a recent significant Interior Board of Land Appeals decision concerning the intersection of tribal cultural resources and a BLM geothermal lease application:

The Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA or Board) decision, Earth Power Resources, 181 IBLA 94 (May 12, 2011), deals with BLM action on a geothermal lease application in Nevada. Citing National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) section 304, 16 U.S.C. § 470w-3, BLM withheld from a geothermal lease applicant an ethnographic study of Ruby Valley that identified a tribal traditional cultural property (TCP) important to an Indian Tribe and disapproved the lease application in order to protect the TCP. The Board overturned BLM’s decision and remanded the case for further action.Continue Reading The Bureau of Land Management, Tribal Cultural Resources and Renewable Energy Development

Stoel Rives attorney Heath Curtiss, one of the
co-authors of "Federal Land Issues with Siting
and Permitting" in our Law of Wind, describes
a Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") plan to
protect certain land suitable for renewables
development from the location of mining claims :

As many of our clients with right-of-way (“ROW”) applications pending before BLM