/ Energy / Land Order Facilitates Solar Energy Development on Public Lands

Land Order Facilitates Solar Energy Development on Public Lands

Matt Ball on July 5, 2013 - in Energy, Projects

As part of President Obama’s comprehensive plan to reduce carbon pollution while promoting American-made clean energy sources, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced the withdrawal of lands identified for solar energy development in the West from new mining claims.

The BLM published a Federal Register notice today announcing the approval of a Public Land Order that withdraws 303,900 acres of land within 17 Solar Energy Zones in six western states from the location of mining claims that could impede development of solar energy sites.

The lands had already been segregated from the mining laws under temporary measures.  The Public Land Order extends the withdrawal for 20 years.

The Department of the Interior established the Solar Energy Zones in October 2012 as part of a western solar plan that provides a road map for utility-scale solar energy development on lands managed by the BLM in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

Solar Energy Zones encompass the lands most suitable for solar energy development because of their excellent solar resources, access to existing or planned transmission, and relatively low conflict with biological, cultural and historic resources.  The Public Land Order puts into action the recommendation in the western solar plan to withdraw the public lands encompassed by Solar Energy Zones for 20 years from potentially conflicting uses, including location under the mining laws, subject to valid existing rights.

“The Public Land Order protects the integrity of the Solar Energy Zones and helps us meet President Obama’s goal of green-lighting enough private renewable energy capacity on public lands to power more than 6 million homes by 2020,” said BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze.

Under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, the BLM is charged with managing the public lands for multiple uses.  Location of new mining claims within the Solar Energy Zones could preclude opportunities for development of solar energy of these lands.

Since 2009, the BLM has approved right-of-way applications for 25 solar energy development projects with planned total capacity of over 8,000 megawatts, or enough to power over 2.4 million homes.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency.  This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska.  The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation.  The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.  In Fiscal Year 2012, activities on public lands generated $4.6 billion in revenue, much of which was shared with the States where the activities occurred.  In addition, public lands contributed more than $112 billion to the U.S. economy and helped support more than 500,000 jobs.

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