Leaked Corps Notice Favors Renewable Energy Over Wetlands

Will the Army Corps of Engineers move forward with a plan to permit construction of renewable energy facilities on wetlands and streams?

Original photos by TANAKA Juuyoh and Nigel Cox. Some rights reserved.

A draft proposal leaked earlier last week reveals that the Corps is contemplating creating three new nationwide permits (NWPs) that would allow for the discharge of dredged or fill material into non-tidal waters of the United States for the construction, expansion, modification, or improvement of renewable energy productive facilities.

The proposed permits cover “land-based” solar, wind, or geothermal projects, “hydrokinetic” (wave, tidal, current) projects, and wind or geothermal projects sited in navigable waters. All the permits propose a one-acre limit on project sites, with the loss of no more than 300 linear feet of stream bed. The permits make unfortunate allowances for attendant features such as roads, parking lots, and utility lines.

According to a recent Chapman and Cutler Update (see the third story down), the permit requirements for these renewable energy projects would be more relaxed than those of their traditional counterparts. Nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), who published the leaked proposal, points out that “in most areas of the country, Nationwide Permits limit or eliminate review by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service.”

It is difficult to say whether the Corps sees the trade off of wetlands for renewable energy facilities a net gain for the environment, or whether they are yet another government agency feeling compelled to usher “green” projects to the front of the line (see: USPTO’s Green Technology Pilot Program). Care to tell them your opinion? Though it is unclear when the proposal will be published in the federal register, once it is, you will have 60 days to submit comments.

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You can review current Nationwide Permits Information here.

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