The Obama administration has proposed putting government land designated for solar and wind development off limits to mining claims for at least two years.
The idea is to speed up renewable energy projects by preventing mining claims from sidetracking solar power plants and wind farms.
Between 2007 and 2009, a solar land rush in California and the desert Southwest resulted in scores of developers putting lease claims on more than a million acres of property controlled by the United States Bureau of Land Management.
But over the past two years, according to the BLM, there’s been another land rush, this time to stake mining claims within areas already claimed for solar and wind development.
The BLM says 437 new mining claims have been made on land in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming where wind developers had previously applied for leases, known as rights of way, or ROW, in agency parlance. Meanwhile, 216 mining claims were lodged on land already staked out by solar developers.
Why? Speculation, you’ll be shocked to learn.
“In the BLM’s experience, some of these claims are likely to be valid, but others are likely to be speculative and not located for true mining purposes,” the agency stated in the proposed rule published Tuesday in the Federal Register. “As such, the latter are likely filed for no other purpose than to provide a means for the mining claimant to compel some kind of payment from the ROW applicant to relinquish the mining claim.”
“The potential for such a situation exists because, while it is relatively easy and inexpensive to file a mining claim, it can be difficult, time-consuming, and costly to prove that the mining claim was not properly filed or does not contain a valid discovery,” added the BLM. “Regardless of the merits of a particular claim, the location of a mining claim in an area covered by a ROW application (or identified for such an application) creates uncertainty that interferes with the orderly administration of the public lands.”
It also can throw a monkey in solar and wind developers efforts to obtain state approvals for their projects and scare off bankers and investors needed to finance what are often multibillion-dollar solar power plants and wind farms.
Under the proposed rule, BLM would “segregate” land for solar and wind development and not allow new mining claims to be filed for two years with a possible two-year extension beyond that. The rule would not apply to valid, previously filed mining claims.
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