Changing federal regulations, lack of cooperation among regulatory agencies lead to confusion, lost time among developers of renewable energy projects, say industry consultants

CHEYENNE, Wyoming , May 11, 2011 () – Developers of renewable energy projects face challenges from changing federal regulations and a lack of cooperation among regulatory agencies, industry consultants said.

For instance, the federal government recently proposed volunteer guidelines for developers to follow to help avoid bald and golden eagle deaths from wind and transmission line projects that require federal permits.

"I think we're all uncertain about what it means going down the road," said Steve Negri, senior wildlife scientist with environmental consultant Tetra Tech Inc. ( TTEK - news - people ) of Pasadena, Calif.

But Negri and others on a panel gathered by the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority on Tuesday said it's best for project developers to address such issues proactively and up front to avoid time-consuming legal issues later.

"Being creative is very critical," said Floyd Robertson, project manager with Ecology and Environment Inc. (EEI - news - people), based in Lancaster, N.Y.

Robertson said his company was involved in projects in Wyoming that had to consider ways to help protect sage grouse habitat even though the bird wasn't listed as endangered.

Ginger Melms, project manager with engineering consultant Terracon, which is based in Olathe, Kan., said time can be saved by improved cooperation among federal and state regulatory agencies.

There are cases where a state may not view federal environmental studies as encompassing enough to satisfy state needs and require additional study, Melms said. If the state and federal agencies worked together on the environmental study, it would save time, she said.

Staff turnover in regulatory agencies also can waste time by requiring new staff to get up to speed on a project, Melms said.

Robertson said a federal national project manager is helpful in projects, such as transmission lines, that traverse multiple states.

Scott Covington, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said his agency is willing to work with renewable energy developers on issues such as the eagles.

"We want to see wind projects done," said Covington, who was not part of the panel but attended the event.

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