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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

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                        [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 
following:

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 
devices, that--
          (1) causes--
                  (A) less than 1 acre of soil or vegetation disruption 
                at the location of each meteorological tower or other 
                device; and
                  (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 
                access roads;
                  (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; 
                and
          (4) provides meteorological information obtained by the 
        permitted project to the Bureau of Land Management and the 
        Forest Service.
  (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 
        applicable, shall--
                  (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 
lands.

                  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 
development activities.
    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 
American consumers.

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    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-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

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 
negligible.
    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 
apply.

                           EARMARK STATEMENT

    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 
tribal law.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    If enacted, this bill would make no changes in existing 
law.

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

    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 
empty exercise.
    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.
                                   Rush Holt.
                                   Grace F. Napolitano.
                                   Niki Tsongas.
                                   Frank Pallone, Jr.
                                   Madeleine Z. Bordallo.
                                   Betty Sutton.
                                   Ben R. Lujan.
                                   Raul M. Grijalva.
                                   John Garamendi.