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Solar Companies Rip Biden Over Proposed Conservation Rules

Solar companies criticized the Biden administration’s recently proposed land conservation rules for using “inappropriate” and “overbroad” standards they argue would harm the industry, according to a statement released Thursday.

The Department of Interior (DOI) in late March proposed rules to allow public lands to be leased for conservation — similar to existing permits for energy projects and ranching — to the cheers of environmentalists and frustration of oil interests. Solar companies are now expressing concern that the proposal could lead to conservationists and government officials blocking their projects on environmental grounds, undercutting the Biden administration’s own efforts to boost wind and solar and shut down coal, oil and gas projects.

“Specifically, the Proposed Rule would require local [Bureau of Land Management] Field Managers to protect ‘intact landscapes,’ to prioritize ‘ecosystem resiliency,’ and to apply ‘land health’ standards designed for grazing land on all areas and decisions,” the coalition of green energy firms, which described itself as the “Renewable Energy Industry” wrote in a statement. “Adopting these vague, overbroad, and often inappropriate approaches to land use decisions on arid lands and other lands is likely to have far-reaching and unintended consequences precluding renewable energy development and transmission on federally managed lands, thereby undermining and stalling the Administration’s ambitious goals for addressing climate change.”

Environmentalists such as Drew McConville, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, argue that the solar firms could actually benefit from the proposal by leasing lands to conserve, offsetting the negative environmental impacts of their own projects, according to the Los Angeles Times. While such mitigation projects are typically done on private land, opening public lands to such leasing would offer companies “more options … and hopefully fewer conflicts,” McConville said.

Peter Weiner, a lawyer for the Large-scale Solar Association, who helped draft the industry’s statement against the proposal, argued that such leasing would only help the industry “at the margins,” according to the times. Ultimately, the proposal would hinder the industry by increasing the burden of environmental regulations, Weiner said.

Nada Culver, a deputy director at DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), pushed back on the industry’s interpretation of the proposed environmental standards, and argued that the regulations would give BLM better information about how to divvy up land between conservation and renewable energy projects, in a statement to the Times.

“We’re seeking to support the overall resilience of public lands. Because if they’re not resilient, if they’re not functioning, then they can’t support clear air and clean water and wildlife, and they can’t support renewable energy development and all of these other uses,” Culver said. “We are really looking to find that balance.”

BLM did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.

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