Group of 21 U.S. senators says Interior Dept. holding up wind energy development, job creation by adding unnecessary obstacles to permitting process for public land

WASHINGTON , June 21, 2011 (press release) – Letter says Interior Secretary can better balance power, wildlife issues

A bipartisan group of 21 U.S. Senators say that the Department of the Interior (DOI) is curtailing renewable energy development and job creation by adding unnecessary obstacles to the permitting process. Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley authored the letter, which was signed by Idaho Senator Jim Risch and 18 additional senators from both parties and from across the country. The letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar claims that DOI ignored the professional counsel of its own stakeholder-driven advisory committee—created to guide wind development in an environmentally sustainable manner—and instead released guidelines that are onerous and cost prohibitive for wind energy projects. The senators claim that these guidelines have already stalled many wind energy projects at a time when renewable energy and the jobs that follow its development have been prioritized by the Administration.

“These guidelines differ substantially from the recommendations made by the Wind Turbine Guidelines Federal Advisory Committee (FAC) submitted to you in March 2010,” the senators wrote in their letter to Salazar. “Although these guidelines are voluntary, they could still set a precedent for standards that will create unnecessary complications for wind energy projects. The differences are significant and potentially troubling for the continued development of wind resources in America.”

The senators note that the advisory committee’s recommendations had been researched and peer-reviewed by representatives from state governments, wildlife conservation organizations, scientists, and the wind energy industry, who participated for more than two and a half years to provide advice to DOI on wind energy guidelines. “These guidelines were meticulously drafted and based on peer-reviewed science. They embody a balanced approach to managing wind-wildlife interaction, and in so doing represent an appropriate approach with respect to this nationally important industry,” the senators added. The senators also urged that eagle permit rules more closely reflect the less restrictive permit rules that existed while the Bald Eagle was listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA).

In addition to Crapo, Risch, and Merkley, the letter to Salazar was signed by Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska), John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Max Baucus (D-Montana), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Al Franken (D-Minnesota), Dean Heller (R-Nevada), John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John Thune (R-South Dakota), Mark Udall (D-Colorado), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), and Patty Murray (D-Washington).

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