Renewable Energy Permitting and Leasing on Tribal Lands

Photo by Mataparda. Some rights reserved.

About one month ago, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) released draft regulations that aim to “increase the efficiency and transparency of the BIA approval process” for leasing tribal land, according to a supplement that was provided along with the proposed regulations to tribal leaders for review.

The draft regulations, if finalized, would add several subparts to the existing 25 CFR Part 162 (“Leases and Permits”), one of which subparts (Subpart E) lays out specific procedures for wind and solar energy project permitting and leasing.

More recently, Pillsbury law published an Advisory addressing the draft regulations, generally giving them their full support. Pillsbury points out that the large swaths of tribal land in the lower 48 states add up to more than 50 million acres, and that this land has the potential to generate 535 billion kWh/year of wind energy and 17,600 kWh/year of solar energy.

Current regulations, however, provide several roadblocks to such renewable energy projects, having to do with landowner consent, tax credits, and an outdated approval process. Yet the Pillsbury Advisory remains upbeat that the proposed changes will improve things: “If and when finalized, the [wind and solar resources] regulations should help spur renewable energy development by streamlining the federal approval process for such projects on tribal land.”

One hopes the goal of “transparency” is taken as seriously as “efficiency.” If done correctly, perhaps these new regulations will help to smooth over historically rocky relations between the DOI and Native American groups and prevent the federal approval of such controversial renewable energy projects on tribal lands.

As of today, two remaining tribal consultation meetings are scheduled for March 31st and April 6th, which you can track using the BIA calendar here. Once this consultation period is over, BIA hopes to have the proposed regulations published in the Federal Register by late summer of 2011, and finalized and effective by early 2012.

One response to this post.

  1. […] in March, the Green Mien posted about an early draft of proposed Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) regulations addressing leases on […]


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