The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published a final rule in today’s Federal Register that will give priority to wind and solar projects over mining claims on federal lands.
BLM has designated wind and solar development zones in several western states, including Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Within these zones, project developers may apply for rights of way (ROW) to site eligible renewable projects. Through a separate and much quicker process, parties may file a mining claim on federal lands. An applicant for a ROW must compensate the holder of a mining claim if it intends to use the same land.
BLM’s new rule allows the agency to temporarily “segregate” federal lands that are the subject of wind or solar ROW applications or within a designated wind or solar development zone from the application of public land laws, including various mining statutes that allow a party to make a mining claim. The effect of the new rule will be to halt new mining claims on segregated lands for a period of up to two years.
By giving priority to wind and solar ROW applications, BLM hopes to curb what it viewed as abuses by the mining industry. Within the past two years, 653 new mining claims were filed within newly designated wind or solar energy zones. BLM concluded that many of these mining claims were “likely filed for no purpose other than to provide a means for the mining claimant to compel payment from the ROW applicant or grantee in exchange for relinquishing the mining claim.”
The rule goes into effect on May 30, 2013.