The BLM is proceeding with a competitive leasing rulemaking process to implement competitive leasing rules for solar energy zones (SEZs). There is an interim procedure for use until the proposed rules are finalized.
On September 30, 2014, the BLM issued its Draft Competitive Leasing rule for Wind and Solar Leasing in the Federal Register. Publication kicks off a 60-day comment period that closes on December 1, 2014. The proposed regulations would promote the use of “designated leasing areas” that include the BLM's SEZs. The rule would establish competitive processes, terms and conditions (including rental and bonding requirements) for solar and wind energy development rights-of-way (ROWs) both inside and outside the designated leasing areas, and provide incentives for leases in designated leasing areas.
Two documents that support information in the draft rule are provided below.
The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for considering the establishment of a competitive leasing process was published on December 29, 2011 (Volume 76, page 81,906 of the Federal Register). The Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking included a description of the proposed competitive process.
Section 501 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 as Amended authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, with respect to public lands, to grant, issue, or renew rights-of-way (ROWs) over, upon, under, or through such lands for systems for the generation, transmission, and distribution of electric energy (43 USC 1761(a)(4)). This authority includes the issuance of ROW lease authorizations for solar energy generation systems. The existing ROW regulations (43 CFR 2804.23(c)) currently provide authority for identifying public lands under competitive bidding procedures, but limit the competitive process to responding to ROW applications. The purpose of a competitive process under existing regulations is to determine which application would be processed. Through rulemaking, the BLM intends to provide broader authority and a new competitive process for making lands available for solar energy development within SEZs (i.e., designated leasing areas).
Interest in development in some solar energy zones (SEZs) has been expressed since release of the Solar PEIS Record of Decision (ROD) in October 2012. Although the proposed rulemaking for competitive leasing of SEZs is not complete, an interim competitive procedure has been developed.
All solar energy ROW applications received before June 30, 2009, for lands in SEZs (defined as “pending” applications) will be processed consistent with existing land use plan decisions in place prior to amendment by the ROD; these applications will not be subject to any decisions adopted by the ROD.
All solar energy ROW applications received after June 30, 2009, for lands in SEZs (defined as “new” applications) will be subject to the decisions adopted in the ROD. The BLM may proceed with pre-application meetings as provided for in the regulations at 43 CFR 2804.10(a), as well as public outreach on new applications in SEZs to assist in developing future competitive lease parcels. Depending on timing, the BLM may consider new applications in SEZs under interim competitive procedures, or as nominations under the competitive leasing process that the BLM is currently considering through rulemaking.