BLM Coordination Activities for Variance Applications
As part of the variance process, the BLM will coordinate with appropriate Federal, State, and local government agencies and tribes. The review of right-of-way (ROW) applications in coordination with these other entities will help the BLM determine the potential for impacts on important resources; explore ways to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate such impacts; and ensure consistency with relevant plans, policies, and initiatives. Coordination activities will include the following:
- Consultation with tribes. Government-to-government consultation with tribal staff will provide opportunities for tribes to identify traditional cultural properties and sacred sites with applications in variance areas. Tribes will be invited to attend pre-application meetings with the applicant and the BLM. On the basis of information and discussions arising from the pre-application meetings, the BLM will determine whether there is a need for new ethnographic research to provide sufficient information to adequately consider the effects of solar energy development on issues and resources of concern to tribes. BLM field office cultural staff, including specialists assigned to Renewable Energy Coordination Offices where present, in consultation with their Deputy Preservation Officer, shall recommend to responsible BLM line officers whether to collect additional ethnographic data for a given solar application. Should new ethnographic research, studies, or interviews be recommended, the BLM cultural staff, in consultation with tribal officials, will provide guidance to BLM line officers about the appropriate scope of that work, provisions for safeguarding data confidentiality, and programs of mitigation.
- Coordination with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). The BLM will consult with the SHPO to determine the steps required to identify historic properties in the area of effect for the ROW application. Additional inventories may include Class II or Class III surveys in areas of direct and indirect effect, depending on the potential for impacts. On the basis of the results of the inventory, determinations of eligibility of sites to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), determinations of effect, and programs of mitigation would be approved by the BLM and carried out by the applicant prior to ground disturbance.
- Coordination with State fish and wildlife agencies.
- For applications in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) planning area, the BLM will coordinate with California Renewable Energy Action Team (REAT) agencies (BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS], California Department of Fish and Game [CDFG], and California Energy Commission [CEC]) to ensure consistency with any DRECP reserve and development area designs. The REAT agencies will evaluate applications in areas proposed for development, focus areas, and areas proposed for reserves on a case-by-case basis. The REAT agencies will consider the best available information, including data generated as part of the DRECP planning effort. The BLM may choose to defer or modify projects on a case-by-case basis if it determines that approval of the proposed project would harm resource values so as to limit the choice of reasonable alternative actions in the DRECP (H-1601-1—Land Use Planning Handbook).
- Coordination with the National Park Service (NPS) to assess the potential for impacts on the resources and values of units of the National Park System and other special status areas under NPS administration (e.g., National Scenic or Historic Trails).
- Coordination with the NPS, U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and/or BLM National Trails System Office charged with trail-wide administration or management for National Scenic or Historic Trails to review inventory adequacy or needs, and to assess potential adverse impacts on trails. Coordination is also required with the study agency for trails recommended as suitable in congressionally authorized Trail Feasibility Studies or trails undergoing such study. Coordination is also required with nonprofit National trail organizations for trails subject to exclusion provisions. Other related program coordination requirements must also be met, such as those for cultural resources, recreation and visitor services, visual resources, or National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS).
- Coordination with the USFWS on any application that could result in impacts on Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed species and their habitat (including, but not limited to, desert tortoise and greater sage-grouse), bald and golden eagles, and migratory birds.
- Coordination with State and local (county and/or municipal) governments to determine compatibility with officially adopted plans and policies (e.g., comprehensive land use plans, open space plans, conservation plans) and permit requirements (e.g., special use permits).
- Consultation with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The BLM will consult the DoD to minimize and/or eliminate impacts on military operations and encourage compatible development. This consultation will include both general discussions for early planning and detailed assessments of specific proposals at the local level. The BLM will accept formal DoD submissions once they have been vetted through both the Military Departments and the DoD Siting Clearinghouse.
- Coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
- Coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Coordination with State and regional transmission planning efforts (e.g., Western Governors’ Association [WGA], Nevada Renewable Energy Transmission Access Advisory Committee, New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority), transmission coordination authorities (e.g., Western Electricity Coordinating Council [WECC]), State energy offices, and transmission system operators to identify any transmission issues associated with the proposed project (e.g., capacity and land use considerations).
- Coordination with the railroad industry to determine the potential for impacts on railroad ROWs and railroad operations.
- Coordination with any potentially affected grazing permittee/lessee to discuss how the proposed project may affect grazing operations and address possible alternatives, as well as mitigation and compensation strategies.
- Coordination with existing ROW holders to determine potential impacts on existing BLM authorizations.
- Coordination with the owner of any Federal mining claims and/or mineral leases located within the boundaries of the proposed project to determine the potential for impacts on mining claims and/or mineral leases and discuss ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate such impacts.