BLM is responsible for managing the development of wind energy resources on public lands in Washington County. Nationally, in 2005, about 500 Megawatts of installed wind capacity existed under BLM rights-of-way in the western United States. In December of 2005, BLM completed a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in cooperation with the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory that established a national wind energy policy and best management practices (BMPs) to minimize impacts on critical resources. The policy reflects the requirements of Executive Order 13212 (May 2001), the National Energy Policy of 2001, and the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that direct federal agencies to expedite projects to increase the production, transmission, or conservation of energy. BLM’s general policy is to encourage development of wind energy in acceptable areas in cooperation with local, state, and other federal agencies.
Details on how BLM implements that policy are contained in Washington Office Instruction Memorandum No. 2006-216, dated August 24, 2006. Basically, all wind energy related facilities on public lands will be authorized through rights-of-way under Title V of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and regulations at 43 CFR 2800. Authorizations are subject to appropriate analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act with public notice and consultation with affected tribes, governments, and other stakeholders.
The St. George Field Office has received numerous inquiries about wind energy and has processed applications for testing and monitoring of wind resources in portions of Washington County. Testing usually entails the installation of meteorological towers to measure wind speed, direction and other environmental factors. Once project sponsors have sufficient data, a decision is made as to whether to continue the project through the development of a wind farm with multiple turbines and connections to electrical transmission facilities. The latter is most often accompanied by extensive environmental analysis including alternative project designs and mitigation of potential impacts to the human and natural environments. The analyses will likely be tiered to the Programmatic EIS cited above and emphasize the application of BMPs. Numerous special management areas such as designated wilderness, wilderness study areas, most areas of critical environmental concern, critical habitats for federally-listed species, and important scenic areas and recreation lands will be excluded from wind farm developments to avoid significant resource conflicts.Other BLM offices in adjacent counties and throughout the western United States are also receiving substantial interest from wind energy developers. For more detailed information visit the BLM national website for wind energy.