The Departments of Interior and Agriculture this week issued a report to Congress, titled New Energy Frontier – Balancing Energy Development on Federal Lands, outlining progress in developing renewable and conventional energy sources on public lands and waters.
Traditional oil and gas resources produced from Federal lands and waters presently account for about 30 percent of the U.S. energy production. The report notes that 38.2 million acres of onshore public lands currently are under lease for oil and gas development, but only 16.6 million acres are active while 21.6 million acres are inactive.
In 2010, the BLM processed more than 5,200 applications for permits to drill on federal and Indian lands and expects to process more than 7,200 of these applications in 2011.
The report lists several other initiatives that could affect ranchers who rely on federal lands for grazing, including these:
- Interior's Bureau of Land Management approved nine large-scale solar projects, with a total generating capacity of 3,682 megawatts. BLM also received more than 100 additional applications for utility-scale solar energy projects in four western states.
- USDA launched a major new Wood-to-Energy Initiative in 2010 that seeks to build a forest restoration economy by integrating wood-to-energy activities within the larger forest products sector.
- The federal government identified 24 solar energy study areas in six western states, comprising more than 1,000 square miles, being analyzed in detail to determine if they are appropriate for Solar Energy Zones with the potential to be used for large-scale solar energy production.
- USDA's Rural Energy for America Program provides funding for development of renewable energy projects on public lands, sand in the past two years assisted in more than 270 wind energy project across the country.
- The Department of the Interior expanded the 25 wind energy facilities on BLM lands in the West by approving four new projects and reviewing and processing 47 additional project applications.
- The government worked to increase geothermal energy production on public lands, approving four priority geothermal projects in Nevada since 2009; BLM oversees 58 geothermal leases in a producing status covering about 56,000 acres on BLM lands and 120 geothermal leases covering 134,000 acres on U.S. Forest Service lands.