U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
 
Montana/Dakotas
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United States Department of the Interior
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Montana State Office
5001 Southgate Drive
Billings, Montana 59101-4669
http://www.blm.gov/mt

August 3, 2011

 
1610 (MT924.RJ) P
2800
 
 
Instruction Memorandum No. MT-2011-067
Expires: 09/30/2012
 
To:         Montana Dakotas Leadership
 
From:     State Director
 
Subject: State Director Guidance on Addressing Renewable Energy in RMPs
 
Program Area: All Programs Involved in Resource Management Plan (RMP) Revisions
 
Purpose: This Instruction Memorandum (IM) provides guidance to Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota BLM field offices on preparation of renewable energy sections and analysis for inclusion in resource management plans (RMPs) to provide consistency in approach.
 
Policy/Action: The BLM Land Use Planning Handbook (H-1601-1) requires that land use planning efforts address existing and potential development areas for renewable energy projects (see H-1601-1, Appendix C, II. Resource Uses, Section E. Lands and Realty). All land use planning efforts must address resource potential, public concerns, and opportunities for renewable energy development. Wind and solar projects on BLM-administered lands are processed in accordance with FLPMA right-of-way regulations overseen by the Lands and Realty program. Therefore, designations of lands to be excluded or avoided in relation to wind energy rights-of-way is a decision to be made in land use planning documents.
 
In the Montana/Dakotas, RMPs will contain a Renewable Energy section in addition to the Lands and Realty section in order to highlight the resources and allocations related to renewable energy in the planning area. Wind development should be the focus of the discussion and analysis given that it is the most likely source of renewable energy generation from BLM-administered lands in the Montana/Dakotas. Solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower developments may be discussed if appropriate and, in particular, referenced to other sections, such as the Minerals section for geothermal development and the Forest and Woodlands/Forest Products sections for biomass. 
 
Renewable Energy Allocations
Land use planning allocations for renewable energy in the Montana/Dakotas will focus on wind, along with geothermal. Geothermal allocations made in the Bureau-wide geothermal record of decision (ROD) should be included in the Minerals section in accordance with Appendix C of the Land Use Planning Handbook (H-1601-1) guidance. Wind energy allocations will require consideration by the planning team as described below.
 
Wind Allocations
Using an interdisciplinary team and defensible rationales regarding the need for resource protections based on impacts from wind energy, planning teams in the Montana/Dakotas will place lands within the planning unit into one of three categories--(1) Exclusion, (2) Avoidance, or (3) Open--and disclose acreage and percent of planning unit by allocation. This terminology is consistent with the terminology and definitions outlined in the Lands and Realty program section in Appendix C of the Land Use Planning Handbook (H-1601-1) and will be used in lieu of terminology from other programs (i.e., “no lease” or “NSO” in the Oil and Gas program, “available/unavailable” in the Grazing program, etc.). 
 
The RMPs should specify that these allocations apply to wind energy rights-of-way. While oil and gas stipulations may be helpful in determining allocations for wind energy, it should be recognized that wind energy development is different from oil and gas development and that there may not necessarily be a direct correlation. In addition, wind energy allocations may or may not be different than the avoidance and exclusion areas designated in the Lands and Realty section for other types of rights-of-way based on the resource reasons necessitating restrictions and the differences in wind farm development from other right-of-way infrastructure. 
 
The definitions of these categories are:
 
Exclusion Areas
Exclusion areas are areas that are not available for location of rights-of-way under any conditions. Programmatic exclusion areas are identified in the Wind Energy Preliminary Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) ROD issued in June 2005, which amended several land use plans in the Montana/Dakotas. Planning units may identify other areas to be excluded based on analysis contained in the land use planning document. Factors to consider when proposing exclusion areas are outlined in Attachment 1.
 
Avoidance Areas
Avoidance areas may be available for location of rights-of-way with special stipulations, design features, and/or mitigation measures that go beyond the standard terms and conditions applied to right-of-way grants (usually those found in the Guide Stipulations for ROW Administration) and Best Management Practices (for wind, those outlined in the 2005 Wind PEIS ROD). The Avoidance category includes resource-based or area-wide stipulations that restrict operations during certain timeframes or seasons, as well as other types of restrictions related to distance (setbacks). Unlike areas designated as “Open”, avoidance areas contain constraints that may result in substantial restrictions or mitigation measures in order for an applicant to proceed with a wind energy development. Factors to consider when proposing avoidance areas are outlined in Attachment 2. 
 
Open Areas
Open areas are available for consideration for location of renewable energy rights-of-way with standard right-of-way terms and conditions, less restrictive design features incorporated into the applicant’s plan of development (POD), and general Best Management Practices which can be found in the 2005 Wind PEIS ROD.  It is expected the number of acres considered truly “open” could be quite limited given the number of resource concerns and special provisions identified for lands in the Montana/Dakotas (of particular note, wide ranging sage grouse and eagle habitats, visual resources, areas of critical environmental concern, etc.).  
 
Potential Wind Development Areas
The H-1601 - Land Use Planning Handbook requires offices to identify potential renewable energy development areas. It is suggested that offices consider open areas that exhibit Classes 4-7
wind potential based on the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) mapping (currently available at 50 meters) as “potential wind development areas” to meet this guidance. These areas should be displayed on a map in the RMP, with acres outlined in table format. This would serve to identify areas in the planning unit that have the fewest known resource conflicts. Planning teams should also consider where there may be previously disturbed lands that have wind development potential.
 
Reasonable Foreseeable Development (RFD)
No formal protocols exist that require preparation of a formal RFD document for renewable energy development as is the case in the Oil and Gas program. However, a review should be conducted to identify operating and proposed utility-scale renewable energy developments in the planning area, with the information included as part of the Chapter 3, Affected Environment information. Again, for the Montana/Dakotas, this review should be focused on wind energy. Consideration of transmission factors should also be explored, but should not unduly limit consideration of wind energy based solely on a lack of current transmission lines or capacity. Based on this information and planning unit specific knowledge regarding past and current interest and inquiries, assumptions should be developed and provided in Chapter 4 outlining the potential for future development on BLM-administered land in the planning area, including the number of potential projects, number and size of turbines, anticipated megawatt production, and projected acres of disturbance based on known construction and maintenance at existing project developments. This information can then be used by other specialists on the planning team to address potential impacts.
 
Other Suggestions
Chapter 3 should contain a table outlining the acreages and percent of all ownerships within the planning areas as well as BLM surface ownership within each of the seven wind power classes (Classes 1-7) derived from the NREL 50 meter wind class maps. Classes 1 and 2 are considered low potential, Class 3 is moderate, and Classes 4-7 are high potential development areas. 
 
Information on previous or existing authorizations within the planning area on both BLM-administered and other land ownerships should be described.
 
The impact analysis for renewable energy should focus on the amount of high potential wind development areas that are open as well as restricted from development in each alternative. 
 
Tables outlining the acres and percent, and a description of the type of restriction, are more useful than extensive narrative explanation.
 
A map of the renewable energy allocations showing open, avoidance, and exclusion areas, as well the proposed potential wind development areas should be included.
 
Timeframe: This IM is effective immediately. All ongoing land use planning efforts will use the protocols outlined in this guidance to provide consistency in addressing renewable energy allocations and decisions across the Montana/Dakotas organization.
 
Budget Impact: Budget impact is expected to be minor, though additional time to ensure a consistent approach may be needed.
 
Background: Washington Office planning guidance contained in the H-1610-1 - Land Use Planning Handbook and other WO directives provide general direction but no specific guidance to assist field offices in review of renewable energy allocations.  Formal direction is needed to provide for a consistent approach within the Montana/Dakotas organization given that four RMPs are in development with Drafts yet to be submitted for WO review. State Director review and monthly RMP briefings have identified some inconsistencies in approach.
 
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: Guidance would supplement H-1610-1 with specifics.
 
Coordination: The BLM WO and Montana/Dakotas planning staff were contacted for input prior to drafting the IM. Content of this IM was discussed with Montana/Dakotas RMP Project Managers and Field Managers on the monthly briefings with the State Director. Review by Montana/Dakotas BLM field offices was requested and comments were incorporated into the final IM. 
 
Contacts: Renee Johnson, Renewable Energy Lead, at (406) 896-5028, or Cynthia Staszak, Chief, Branch of Land Resources/Associate Deputy State Director, at (406) 896-5039.
 
 
Signed by:                                                       Authenticated by:
Jamie E. Connell                                              Kathy Iszler
State Director                                                  Staff Assistant (MT-92

 

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Last updated: 06-28-2012