Five federal agencies (the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Defense (DoD), Energy (DOE), and Interior (DOI), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)) have announced in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that they will “prioritize and expedite” the development of at least 25GW of renewable energy on federal lands administered by DOI and USDA by 2025. The MOU contemplates continued cooperation in respect of renewable energy development on additional federal lands between 2025 and 2030. This initiative, which is pursuant to directives set forth by the Energy Act of 2020, aims to improve interagency cooperation for the expedited processing of wind, solar, and geothermal energy applications. This includes the development of supporting activities, such as electric transmission, access routes, energy storage, and land use planning. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), in coordination with the National and BLM Renewable Energy Coordination Offices (RECOs), will be the lead agencies overseeing the interagency coordination and expedited reviews for the respective lands they administer.
In addition to increasing coordination of environmental and other agency reviews, the five agencies aim to improve interagency collaboration in the National and BLM RECOs, identify opportunities for coordination with state and Tribal governments, and streamline the project approval process by eliminating redundancies and accelerating decision-making. The MOU notes that, in the course of conducting the reviews, consideration will be given to “the protection for cultural resources and sacred sites as well as the Nation’s land, water, and biodiversity, and fostering creation of jobs to support local communities.” The federal government’s ambitious prioritization of the development of renewable energy generation facilities and key ancillary activities such as transmission presents tremendous opportunities for developers and investors. Moreover, the focus on DOI lands indicates strong support for Tribes and echoes the Biden administration’s support for economic development and energy justice. However, working with the federal government can be complicated, even during an administration that clearly means business when it comes to climate change and the energy transition. Our Public Policy, Government Contracting, Indian Law, and Power teams stand by to help you navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities.