Energy Zones a Key to New Initiative
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Citing the critical need to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, build a clean energy economy and create new jobs, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today issued a Secretarial Order making the production, development, and delivery of renewable energy top priorities for the Department.
“More so than ever, with job losses continuing to mount, we need to steer the country onto a new energy path,” Salazar said. “One that creates new jobs and puts America out front in new, growing industries, one that promotes investment and innovation here at home and one that makes wise use of our domestic resources.”
In addition to making renewable energy production a top priority for the Department, Salazar's Secretarial order establishes an energy and climate change task force that will spur this agenda and identify specific zones on U.S. public lands where Interior can facilitate a rapid and responsible move to large-scale production of solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy.
For these renewable energy zones to succeed, Salazar pointed out, Interior will need to work closely with other federal agencies, states and American Indian tribes to determine what electric transmission infrastructure and transmission corridors are needed to deliver these renewable resources to major population centers.
“We will assign a high priority to identifying renewable energy zones and completing the permitting and appropriate environmental review of transmission rights-of-way applications that are necessary to deliver renewable energy generation to consumers,” Salazar said. “We have to connect the sun of the deserts and the wind of the plains with the places where people live.”
Interior manages one fifth of the country's landmass, over 1.7 billion offshore acres, and lands with some of the highest renewable energy potential in the nation. Interior's Bureau of Land Management has identified about 21 million acres of public land with wind energy potential in the 11 western states and about 29 million acres with solar energy potential in the six southwestern states. There are also 140 million acres of public land in western states and Alaska that have geothermal resource potential.
In addition, there is significant wind and wave energy potential offshore. The National Renewable Energy Lab has identified more than 1,000 gigawatts of wind potential off the Atlantic coast, and more than 900 gigawatts of wind potential off our Pacific Coast.
The task force will prioritize the permitting and appropriate environmental review of transmission rights-of-way applications that are necessary to deliver renewable energy generation to consumers. The task force will work to resolve obstacles to renewable energy permitting, siting, development, and production.
To help accomplish these goals, Interior may need to revise existing policies or create new policies, Salazar said, citing as examples the Geothermal, Wind, and West-Wide Corridors Programmatic Environmental Impact Statements and their respective Records of Decisions. Interior will also finalize a regulation for offshore renewable development.
Salazar explained that the Department of the Interior will continue to responsibly develop oil and gas resources on public lands. “In the last six weeks we have had five major oil and gas lease sales onshore, netting more than $32 million in revenue for taxpayers. And next week, I will be travelling to New Orleans to participate in a lease sale for the Central Gulf of Mexico. These will add important resources to our domestic energy production.”