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Interior Tells Senate About Progress on Renewables


Tom Strickland, the Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks , testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Thursday August 6. The full committee hearing was entitled “Climate Change and Ensuring that America Leads the Clean Energy Transformation.” Also testifying on the panel were Jon Wellinghoff, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and David Sandalow, Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs at the Department of Energy.

Topic / Summary / Transcript
Topic:  Assistant Secretary Strickland assured the committee that development of renewable energy is not coming at the expense of conventional energy development on public lands.
“It is the position of the administration, and Secretary Salazar supports this position as do I, that we should actively and aggressively develop our conventional energy resources. And since this new administration came into office January 21, our first day at the Department of Interior, we have offered just under 2,000 parcels for lease, 2.3 million acres. There were bids brought in on 845,000 acres. I accompanied Secretary Salazar to New Orleans for one of the OCS bids in the spring. We have another bid coming up in August with respect to additional offshore lands. We’re actively looking at the whole OCS in its entirety. We believe there is substantial opportunity to continue to develop conventional oil and gas. We believe we need a balance. We also think there has been an undervalued and underdeveloped alternative and renewable resource on our public lands up to this point. And so we’re moving quickly to try and bring some balance, but that’s not at the expense of our conventional commitment. We agree there’s additional opportunities.”

Topic:  Assistant Secretary Strickland said that all issues including environmental and transportation issues are being looked at with respect to development of solar energy.
“Right now the BLM is looking at solar and involved in a programmatic EIS to look at just that very point that you make. Let’s, rather than just let this develop haphazardly with individual projects that come in, let’s look at where they’re best located that takes into account some of these environmental issues as well as transportation issues. We’re looking at transportation corridors in the same way. We’re working with local and state governments out in the West. We’re working closely with the Western Governors Association. So the idea is to try and take into account the very points you make. The environmental considerations, I’m responsible for a big part of the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, there are real issues that we will process and work through.”

Topic:  Assistant Secretary Strickland says that renewable energy development is in an early stage but that the department is moving quickly to put infrastructure into place.
“We are in our very early stages in terms of using public lands, in terms of the potential for renewable energy. It was just this spring that regulations were for the first time put into place to provide for the development of offshore wind in the Outer Continental Shelf. There was one project at least, the Cape Wind Project, that had gone forward with kind of some interim regs, at least the application for that project had gone forward. So we’re very much in our infancy but we’re very much moving quickly to put the infrastructure in place. With respect to solar, much the same. We have limited proposals for solar up until recently, now we have a huge backlog of private sector interest in developing solar on our public lands. As I mentioned a few moments ago, we used some of our Recovery Act dollars to the department to put four offices in place throughout the Southwest to help deal with that backlog so we can get these projects through the permitting system and those that meet the standards for environmental review and otherwise make sense and can attract the capital will come online. So we’re early on in this effort but there’s huge potential.”