BLM plans rulemaking to encourage renewable energy on public lands


The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) started a process aimed at revising its rules related to renewable energy permitting and linear rights-of-way on public lands.

As part of the process, the BLM is soliciting public input on its proposed rulemaking. The BLM sent letters to potentially affected Tribes, and said it intends to hold separate virtual government-to-government meetings regarding the proposed rule.

The BLM said it anticipates publishing a proposed rule in the Federal Register by early 2022. At that time, an opportunity for additional public review and comment will be available.

The BLM said it is interested in hearing input related to the following:

  • Rent schedules and fees for linear, solar, and wind energy rights-of-way
  • Scenarios or criteria when reduced rents/fees are appropriate for wind and solar rights-of-way
  • Competitive processes for wind and solar rights-of-way
  • Potential extension beyond 30-years for wind and solar rights-of-way
  • Application prioritization and screening rights-of-way
  • Application processing time standards
  • Other improvements to the BLM’s administration of renewable energy and linear rights-of-way, including considerations related to environmental justice.

The BLM manages public lands that it said “have the potential to make significant contributions” to the nation’s renewable energy portfolio.

In early 2020, a two-year tax holiday enjoyed by solar and wind projects operating on federally owned lands ended, and the Trump administration handed owners of affected projects some hefty retroactive bills. That was not entirely unexpected and most owners had set aside money to pay the tax bill. A more pressing concern, however, was the increasing difficulty of securing federal lands at an economical market rate. One group told pv magazine at the time that lease rates “far, far” exceeded fair market value.

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