Reject or Prioritize Application
The BLM will ensure that application requirements have been met by reviewing the requirements for processing the application (43 CFR 2804.19) and ensuring all required elements have been completed, including:
- A written agreement between the BLM and the applicant that includes a work plan, a financial plan, and a description of any existing agreements for cost reimbursement between the applicant and other Federal agencies associated with the application;
- Discussion with applicant addressing project plans, availability of funds and personnel, fee payment, and applicant financial information; and
- Final work plan and financial plan completed that reflect work the applicant has agreed to.
The BLM may require an applicant to submit additional information necessary to process the application.
For solar development projects, the applicant must commence any required resource surveys or inventories within one year of the request date, unless otherwise specified by the BLM.
Based on these evaluations, the BLM will either deny an application or continue processing it (43 CFR 2804.25(e)(2)(iii)). If the BLM denies an application, the applicant may appeal the decision (43 CFR 2801.10).
Applicants unable to meet any of the requirements of 43 CFR 2800 and subparts may request an alternative from the BLM, as described at 43 CFR 2804.40.
Factors considered in BLM's decision to continue processing an application or deny it include:
- Whether the plan of development (POD) schedule submitted with the application meets the development schedule and other requirements described by the BLM.
- Whether there is complete and appropriate National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance for the application, as required by 43 CFR part 46 and 40 CFR parts 1500 through 1508.
- Whether the proposed use complies with applicable Federal and State laws.
- Whether consultation has occurred, as necessary, on a government-to-government basis with tribes and other governmental entities.
The BLM will take any other action necessary to fully evaluate and decide whether to approve or deny an application for a solar energy facility.
The BLM may segregate, if it finds it necessary for the orderly administration of the public lands, lands included in a right-of-way (ROW) application for the generation of electrical energy from solar sources. See 43 CFR 2804.25 for additional details.
Once the BLM has determined that an application meets all requirements for proceeding with processing, the BLM will, among other actions, complete appropriate National Environmental Policy Act compliance for the application. Additional details on processing the application are provided at 43 CFR 2804.25 (e). The BLM will apply Application Prioritization Criteria, including processing leases awarded within designated leasing areas (DLAs) ahead of applications for areas outside of DLAs.
The BLM may deny an application under the following circumstances (43 CFR 2804.26):
- The proposed use is inconsistent with the purpose for which BLM manages the applicable public lands;
- The proposed use would not be in the public interest;
- The applicant is not qualified to hold a grant;
- Issuing the grant would be inconsistent with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, other laws, 43 CFR 2800, or other regulations;
- The applicant does not have or cannot demonstrate the technical or financial capability to construct, operate, maintain, and terminate a project throughout the application process and authorization period. Applicants can demonstrate financial and technical capability to construct, operate, maintain, and terminate a project by:
- Documenting any previous successful experience in construction, operation, and maintenance of similar facilities on either public or non-public lands;
- Providing information on the availability of sufficient capitalization to carry out development; or
- Providing written copies of conditional commitments of Federal and other loan guarantees; confirmed power purchase agreements; engineering, procurement, and construction contracts; and supply contracts with credible third-party vendors for the manufacture or supply of key components for the project facilities.
- The POD submitted by the applicant does not meet the development schedule or other requirements in the POD template;
- Failure to commence necessary surveys and studies, or plans for permit processing as required by § 2804.25(c); or
- The BLM's evaluation of the solar application based on the information provided by the applicant and input from other parties, such as Federal, State, and local government agencies, and tribes, as well as comments received in preliminary application review meetings and any required public meetings.
- The BLM's evaluation of whether the proposed development is sited appropriately (e.g. outside of exclusion areas) and whether known resource values discussed in the preliminary application review meetings are addressed.
Application Prioritization Criteria (43 CFR 2804.35)
The BLM will prioritize an application as high, medium, or low priority. The BLM may re-categorize applications based on new information received through surveys, public meetings, or other data collection, or after any changes to the application. The BLM will generally prioritize the processing of leases awarded within designated leasing areas (DLAs) over processing grant applications for areas outside of DLAs.
For applications submitted for areas outside of DLAs, the BLM will categorize applications based on the following screening criteria:
- High-priority applications may include lands specifically identified as appropriate for solar energy development, such as: previously disturbed sites or areas adjacent to previously disturbed or developed sites; lands currently designated as Visual Resource Management (VRM) Class IV; or lands identified as suitable for disposal in BLM land use plans.
- Medium-priority applications may include lands that meet the following criteria:
- BLM special management areas that provide for limited development, including recreation sites and facilities;
- Areas where a project may adversely affect conservation lands, including lands with wilderness characteristics that have been identified in an updated wilderness characteristics inventory;
- ROW avoidance areas;
- Areas where project development may adversely affect resources and properties listed nationally such as the National Register of Historic Places, National Natural Landmarks, or National Historic Landmarks;
- Sensitive habitat areas, including important species use areas, riparian areas, or areas of importance for Federal or State sensitive species;
- Lands currently designated as VRM Class III;
- Department of Defense operating areas with land use or operational mission conflicts;
- Projects with proposed groundwater uses within groundwater basins that have been allocated by State water resource agencies.
- Low-priority applications may not be feasible to authorize. These applications may include:
- Lands near or adjacent to lands designated by Congress, the President, or the Secretary for the protection of sensitive viewsheds, resources, and values (e.g., units of the National Park System, Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge System, some National Forest System units, and the BLM National Landscape Conservation System), which may be adversely affected by development;
- Lands near or adjacent to Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers and river segments determined suitable for Wild or Scenic River status, if project development may have significant adverse effects on sensitive viewsheds, resources, and values;
- Designated critical habitat for federally threatened or endangered species, if project development may result in the destruction or adverse modification of that critical habitat;
- Lands currently designated as VRM Class I or Class II;
- ROW exclusion areas;
- Lands currently designated as no surface occupancy for oil and gas development in BLM land use plans.