Bureau of Land Management Solar Energy Program Western Solar Plan
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Instruction Memoranda

Instruction Memoranda (IM) are temporary directives that supplement the BLM's permanent Manual Sections which provide direction for its programs. Typically, an IM contains new policy or procedures, interprets existing policies, or provides one-time instructions that have not yet been included in a Manual Section.

The BLM developed and issued several IM policies starting in 2004 to establish and refine a Solar Energy Development program. These IM addressed the increased interest in solar energy development on BLM-administered public lands and provided interim direction for renewable energy development on public lands until completion of updated ROW regulations published on December 19, 2016. These IM described the BLM's Solar Energy Program and established procedures for considering and processing solar energy applications. IM topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Processing of right-of-way (ROW) applications for solar energy development projects;
  • Establishing the maximum term for project authorizations, diligent development, and bonding requirements;
  • Potential best management practices for solar energy development projects;
  • Guidance on calculation of rent for utility-scale solar energy facilities;
  • Guidance on involving grazing permittees and lessees;
  • Guidance on Native American consultation;
  • Guidance on National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 analysis and BLM planning procedures for solar and wind energy development;
  • Guidance on when compensatory mitigation may be used; and
  • Information on solar inspection and enforcement requirements.

Specific IMs related to solar energy development on BLM-administered public lands that have been issued include:

BLM Compensatory Mitigation Policy

IM-2019-018, issued on December 6, 2018, provides guidance on the imposition of compensatory mitigation (CM). The policy states that the BLM must not require CM for the use of public lands, and that the BLM must refrain from authorizing any activity that causes unnecessary or undue degradation pursuant to Section 302(b) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. This IM states that CM that is in compliance with State requirements or other Federal requirements (for example, for compensation of wetland loss under the Clean Water Act or for compensation of impacts to threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act) may be a component of and considered in permits, rights-of-ways, environmental evaluations, and resource management plans for BLM-administered lands.

IM-2019-018 is clear that while the BLM, under limited circumstances, will consider voluntary proposals for compensatory mitigation, the BLM will not accept any monetary payment to mitigate the impacts of a proposed action. The BLM may continue to require the implementation of other forms of onsite mitigation to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation and to protect resources.

IM-2018-093, issued on July 24, 2018, was superseded by IM-2019-018. The two IMs are very similar; IM-2019-018 states more explicitly that CM that is in compliance with State requirements or other federal requirements is applicable for projects (solar or other) on BLM-administered lands.

Solar Energy Rental Policy

IM 2017-096, issued on September 14, 2017, provides guidance on the implementation of the solar energy ROW acreage rent and megawatt (MW) capacity fee schedules pursuant to the final regulations at 43 CFR 2806 published on December 19, 2016. IM 2010-141 had previously provided interim guidance on the rental provisions for solar energy ROW authorizations, but this IM was rescinded and updated with the issuance of IM 2017-096. The current rental fee schedules for solar energy ROW authorizations are effective thru 2021.

Solar Energy Development Policy

IM 2011-003 previously provided guidance on the processing of ROW applications and the administration of ROW authorizations for solar energy projects on public lands administered by the BLM. The policies in this IM have been updated with the December 19, 2016, issuance of the final right-of-way regulations at 43 CFR 2800.

NEPA Compliance for Utility-Scale Renewable Energy ROW Authorizations

IM 2011-059 reiterated and clarified existing BLM NEPA policy to assist offices that are analyzing externally generated, utility-scale renewable energy ROW applications. It includes examples and guidance applicable to renewable energy ROW applications that supplement information in BLM's NEPA Handbook (H-1790-1). Utility-scale renewable energy projects are distinct from many other types of land and realty actions because of their size and potential for significant resource conflicts.

Solar Energy Applications—Technical and Financial Evaluations

IM 2017-099, issued September 14, 2017, provides guidance on the implementation of requirements to evaluate the technical and financial capabilities of an applicant or holder of a solar energy ROW grant or lease pursuant to the final regulations at 43 CFR 2800 published on December 19, 2016. IM 2011-060 had previously provided guidance on due diligence requirements, but it was rescinded and updated with the issuance of IM 2017-099.

Solar Energy Applications—Pre-Application and Screening

IM 2011-061 previously provided guidance on the review of ROW applications for solar and wind energy development projects on public lands administered by the BLM. The policies in this IM have been updated with the December 19, 2016 issuance of the final right-of-way regulations at 43 CFR 2804.12(b) and 2804.25(e).

Native American Consultation and Section 106 Compliance for the Solar Energy Program Described in the Solar PEIS

IM 2012-032 provided the schedule, procedures, and responsibilities for ongoing Native American consultation after completion of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for BLM's Solar Energy Program. It also transmitted a revised Draft Programmatic Agreement (PA) governing the BLM Solar Energy Program's compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Solar Inspection and Enforcement

IM 2014-019 provided information on inspection and enforcement requirements for solar and wind energy projects located on BLM-administered lands.

Updated: 2/22/2019