American Energy Initiative: Testimony of Roby Roberts on behalf of AWEA before House Committee on Natural Resources

June 1, 2011

On June 1, 2011, Horizon Wind Energy Vice President of Communications and Government Affairs Roby Roberts testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources in a hearing on the American Energy Initiative. The Initiative aimed to identify roadblocks to wind and solar energy on public lands and waters. Reilly provided the wind industry’s perspective.

In his testimony, Roberts focused on the roadblocks to developing renewable energy projects on public lands created by regulatory uncertainty, with a particular emphasis on siting.

Key Points of Roberts’ testimony on the wind industry

Roberts offered suggestions for changes that could improve the ability to pursue projects on public lands.

  1. Establish reasonable timelines for agency responses.
  2. Allow commercial negotiation of terms of cost-recovery agreements, right-of-way agreements and memorandums of understanding with federal agencies such as BLM and the Service, which is a standard practice in the private sector, particularly for agreements like those entered into with BLM that may last 20 years.
  3. Require that policy changes proposed and implemented through instruction memorandums be subject to a public comment process, which would allow industry to challenge recommendations that would make wind energy projects on public lands impractical, regardless of whether those came from BLM itself or resulted from BLM implementing a recommendation from another agency like the Service.
  4. Allow a portion of the revenue paid by wind energy projects on BLM lands to be recycled back into the agency for the purpose of improving processing of future permits as is already done for oil and gas, geothermal, film production and communications towers.
  5. Provide for categorical exclusions for putting up temporary meteorological towers to test wind speeds on public lands. This is already allowed under BLM’s wind energy development policy, but is not consistently used.

Roberts noted that these suggestions will only produce marginal benefits without stable federal policy to support renewable energy and without fixing the problematic draft guidelines and guidance proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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