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112th Congress Rept. 112-300
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
1st Session Part 1
UTILIZING AMERICA'S FEDERAL LANDS FOR WIND ENERGY ACT
December 1, 2011.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the
State of the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. Hastings of Washington, from the Committee on Natural Resources,
submitted the following
R E P O R T
[To accompany H.R. 2172]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on Natural Resources, to whom was referred the
bill (H.R. 2172) to facilitate the development of wind energy
resources on Federal lands, having considered the same, report
favorably thereon with an amendment and recommend that the bill
as amended do pass.
The amendment is as follows:
Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited at the ``Utilizing America's Federal Lands for
Wind Energy Act''.
SEC. 2. ONSHORE METEOROLOGICAL SITE TESTING AND MONITORING PROJECT.
(a) Definition of Meteorological Site Testing and Monitoring
Project.--In this section, the term ``meteorological site testing and
monitoring project'' means a project carried out on land administered
by the Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service to test or
monitor weather (including wind and solar energy) using towers or other
(A) less than 1 acre of soil or vegetation disruption
at the location of each meteorological tower or other
(B) not more than 5 acres of soil or disruption
within the proposed right-of-way for the project;
(2) is installed--
(A) to the maximum extent practicable, using existing
(B) in a manner that does not require off-road
motorized access other than 1 installation activity and
1 decommissioning activity along an identified off-road
route approved by the Director of the Bureau of Land
Management or Chief of the Forest Service;
(C) without construction of new roads other than
upgrading of existing minor drainage crossings for
safety purposes; and
(D) without the use of digging or drilling equipment
vehicles other than rubber-tired vehicles with gross
weight ratings under 8,500 pounds;
(3) is decommissioned not more than 5 years after the date of
commencement of the project, including--
(A) removal of any towers, devices, or other surface
infrastructure from the site; and
(B) restoration of the site to approximately the
condition that existed at the time the project began;
(4) provides meteorological information obtained by the
permitted project to the Bureau of Land Management and the
(b) NEPA Exclusion.--Section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental
Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C)) shall not apply with respect
to a meteorological site testing and monitoring project.
(c) Permit Timeline and Conditions.--
(1) In general.--The Director of the Bureau of Land
Management or Chief of the Forest Service, as applicable, shall
decide whether to issue a permit for a project that is a
meteorological site testing and monitoring project within 30
days after receiving an application for the permit.
(2) Public comment and consultation.--During the period
referred to in paragraph (1), the Director of the Bureau of
Land Management or the Chief of the Forest Service, as
(A) provide an opportunity for submission of comments
by the public; and
(B) consult with the heads of other Federal, State,
and local agencies that would be affected by the
issuance of the permit.
(3) Denial of application.--If the application is denied, the
Director or Chief, respectively, shall provide the applicant--
(A) in writing, clear and comprehensive reasons why
the application was not approved and detailed
information concerning any deficiencies, and
(B) an opportunity to remedy any deficiencies.
(d) Protection of Information.--The information provided to the
Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service pursuant to subsection
(a)(4) shall be treated by such agency as proprietary information and
protected against disclosure.
PURPOSE OF THE BILL
The purpose of H.R. 2172, as ordered reported, is to
facilitate the development of wind energy resources on Federal
BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION
The Utilizing America's Federal Lands for Wind Energy Act
(H.R. 2172) facilitates the development of onshore wind power
on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service
land. Current regulations require a full National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA) review for the installation of a simple
temporary meteorological tower that creates minimal
environmental disturbance and is required to test an area's
viability for a large scale wind project. This permitting
process alone can add up to three years to the project
development. The legislation will waive NEPA for meteorological
towers that cause less than one acre of disturbance, are
removed within five years of the completion of the project and
are installed to test the viability of an area for potential
wind power while still allowing time for public comment and
interagency consultation. This could shorten the process for
installing an onshore wind project by at least two years.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates
that U.S. electricity demand will grow by 39% from 2005 to
2030, reaching 5.8 billion megawatt-hours by 2030. Wind energy
reduces reliance on foreign energy sources, has a domestic
energy source, requires no imported fuel and the turbine
components can be produced on U.S. soil.
Wind farms already have to clear a number of obstacles,
such as land-use laws, airspace regulations and competition
with other users for the land whose uses may be more highly
valued than electricity generation. Resolving these wind power
project siting issues is an important part of expanding wind
energy development. The principles applied to wind energy
siting issues must promote efficient and fair permitting
processes at the federal level.
In 2005, BLM published a Programmatic Environmental Impact
Statement for wind, proposing a Wind Energy Development Program
to establish policies to address environmental impacts, and
wildlife, visual and land use issues surrounding wind
Further, BLM concerns over the golden eagle have
significantly delayed wind project development on public lands.
In summer 2010, BLM issued a new policy requiring approval from
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on specific plans for
addressing eagles. This sudden change in policy has resulted in
significant delays to numerous wind projects, including some
projects selected by the BLM as ``fast track'' projects for
receiving permit approvals.
Because of burdensome, time consuming and unpredictable
regulations, some developers seek to develop projects on
private land solely to avoid the regulatory process which can
add years to the development timeline. Streamlining the
permitting process will enable the construction of onshore wind
projects on federal lands, and greater energy production for
H.R. 2172 was introduced on June 14, 2011, by Congresswoman
Kristi Noem (R-SD). The bill was referred to the Committee on
Natural Resources, and within the Committee to the Subcommittee
on Energy and Mineral Resources. The bill was also referred to
the Committee on Agriculture. On June 23, 2011, the
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on
the bill. On July 13, 2011, the Full Resources Committee met to
consider the bill. The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral
Resources was discharged by unanimous consent. Congressman Doug
Lamborn (R-CO) offered an amendment; the amendment was adopted
by voice vote. Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) offered
amendment designated .058; the amendment was withdrawn.
Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) offered amendment designated .001;
the amendment was not adopted by a bipartisan roll call vote of
15-27, as follows:
Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-SD) offered an amendment; the
amendment was adopted by voice vote. The bill, as amended, was
ordered favorably reported to the House of Representatives by a
bipartisan roll call vote of 26-16, as follows:
Section 1. Short title
This Act may be cited as the ``Utilizing America's Federal
Lands for Wind Energy Act.''
Section 2. Meteorological site testing and monitoring project exclusion
This section waives NEPA requirements for any
meteorological testing tower that is installed on land
administered by BLM or the U.S. Forest Service to test or
monitor weather. It requires that permits submitted to install
a tower must be acted on in 30 days and if denied, a written
reason must be provided to the applicant. The section also
requires that any information provided to BLM and the U.S.
Forest Service be treated as proprietary information and
protected from disclosure.
COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the
Committee on Natural Resources' oversight findings and
recommendations are reflected in the body of this report.
COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XIII
1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(1) of rule XIII of the
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be
incurred in carrying out this bill. However, clause 3(d)(2)(B)
of that rule provides that this requirement does not apply when
the Committee has included in its report a timely submitted
cost estimate of the bill prepared by the Director of the
Congressional Budget Office under section 402 of the
Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Under clause 3(c)(3) of rule
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section
403 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee has
received the following cost estimate for this bill from the
Director of the Congressional Budget Office:
H.R. 2172--Utilizing America's Federal Lands for Wind Energy Act
H.R. 2172 would exempt certain weather testing and
monitoring activities on federal land from compliance with
provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Based on information from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
and the Forest Service, CBO estimates that implementing the
legislation would have no significant impact on the federal
budget. Enacting H.R. 2172 would not affect direct spending or
revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.
Under the bill, environmental impact reviews under NEPA
would not be required for weather testing and monitoring
activities on federal land that meet certain requirements
related to the duration of the activities, the amount of land
disturbed, and the restoration of the project site. The bill
also would reduce the amount of time the agency administering
the affected lands would have to determine whether to grant
permits for weather testing and monitoring activities. Based on
information provided by BLM and the Forest Service, CBO expects
that implementing the legislation could affect the workload of
certain offices within those agencies; however, we estimate
that the budgetary impact of any such effects would be
H.R. 2172 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and
would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Jeff LaFave. The
estimate was approved by Theresa Gullo, Deputy Assistant
Director for Budget Analysis.
2. Section 308(a) of Congressional Budget Act. As required
by clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of
Representatives and section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget
Act of 1974, this bill does not contain any new budget
authority, spending authority, credit authority, or an increase
or decrease in revenues or tax expenditures. CBO estimates that
implementing the legislation would have no significant impact
on the federal budget. Enacting H.R. 2172 would not affect
direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go
procedures do not apply.
3. General Performance Goals and Objectives. This bill does
not authorize funding and therefore, clause 3(c)(4) of rule
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives does not
This bill does not contain any Congressional earmarks,
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined
under clause 9(e), 9(f), and 9(g) of rule XXI of the Rules of
the House of Representatives.
COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4
This bill contains no unfunded mandates.
PREEMPTION OF STATE, LOCAL OR TRIBAL LAW
This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or
CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW
If enacted, this bill would make no changes in existing
We oppose H.R. 2172 because it would exempt certain
meteorological testing activities on public lands from any
federal review under the National Environmental Policy Act
(NEPA). This bill eliminates the ability of federal land
managers to review certain projects to ensure that they do not
threaten the environment or public health and safety. The bill
further jeopardizes public safety by attempting to short-
circuit the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) hazard
assessment process, which is designed to ensure that
meteorological towers do not interfere with air traffic. The
wind industry has not endorsed the bill, which leaves in doubt
the claims of bill proponents that the measure will increase
the development of wind energy on public lands.
This bill is a solution in search of a problem. The Bureau
of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS)
already have the authority to use the ``categorical exclusion''
process to expedite permitting and limit NEPA review for
meteorological towers. Since 2008, the BLM has granted a
categorical exclusion for 149 out of 181 applications to build
meteorological towers on public lands, and the USFS has granted
categorical exclusions for all 15 applications they have
received in that time. That means 84 percent of projects are
already receiving the expedited treatment this bill seeks. In
exchange for guaranteeing that those final 16 percent of
projects are expedited, H.R. 2172 would remove the ability of
federal land managers to review meteorological projects
entirely, including in those rare instances when a project may
have significant impacts on the safety of commercial and
military air traffic, significant impacts on park lands or
cultural artifacts, and significant impact on endangered
species and critical habitat.
There is a critically important difference between
providing for expedited permitting most of the time, and
exempting an entire category of projects from NEPA review all
of the time. By adopting the latter approach H.R. 2172, turns a
blind eye to those rare situations where extraordinary
circumstances may exist, indicating that significant
environmental impacts might occur. By waiving NEPA, H.R. 2172
removes the flexibility of the permitting agencies to address
and mitigate any potential extraordinary circumstances that
exist surrounding a proposed project. Since the BLM and USFS
still possess the final authority to approve or deny a project,
H.R. 2172 may also have the unintended consequence of causing
more meteorological testing facilities to be denied.
H.R. 2172 ignores the critical public safety role of the
FAA, which evaluates the potential hazards of any structure
that may impact critical aviation operations. The FAA is
required to conduct an independent hazard analysis of all
proposed meteorological towers and wind farms prior to
construction under 49 U.S.C. 44718. This process usually
requires 60-90 days once the FAA receives a completed
application from an applicant. If the FAA determines that a
proposed meteorological tower poses a threat to aviation, then
such a project will, as a matter of course, be unable to
receive insurance or financing. By imposing an arbitrary 30 day
deadline on the BLM and USFS to either approve or deny a
meteorological tower prior to the completion of the FAA review,
H.R. 2172 injects more uncertainty into the approval process,
not less. It is very possible that the BLM or USFS may approve
a project under the restructured process proposed in this bill,
only to later have the very same project denied by the FAA. The
FAA has expressed similar concerns.
During the mark-up of this bill, an amendment was offered
by Subcommittee Ranking Member Holt that would have addressed
this concern by making clear that the Secretary of Interior
would consult with the FAA with respect to the approval of
meteorological towers without an arbitrary deadline for
concluding any required consultations. The amendment was
defeated 27-15, with all Republicans opposing. Representative
Noem offered an amendment, which was adopted on a voice vote,
which requires the BLM and USFS to consult with all other
Federal, State, and local agencies that would be affected by
the permit. This amendment does not resolve the underlying
problem with the FAA's independent review process since the BLM
and USFS are still required to either approve or deny a project
at the end of the 30 day period. The Secretary has no power to
compel other agencies to expedite their own review processes,
meaning that this new, required consultation will be a rather
H.R. 2172 strips from the BLM and USFS their ability to use
NEPA, the agencies' most important planning tool, in their
decision making process when they evaluate meteorological
towers. H.R. 2172 ignores the FAA's critical role in ensuring
our skies remain safe for air travel. The renewable energy
industry has not suggested this solution and has not endorsed
the legislation. We oppose it as well.
Edward J. Markey.
Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan.
Colleen W. Hanabusa.
Grace F. Napolitano.
Frank Pallone, Jr.
Madeleine Z. Bordallo.
Ben R. Lujan.
Raul M. Grijalva.