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Renewable energy projects will get swift U.S. permitting

Dec 30, 2009 - Matthew Preusch The Oregonia - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

The Bureau of Land Management has chosen 31 renewable energy and transmission projects, including one in Oregon, for expedited permitting in order to make them eligible for stimulus funding.

"They represent the first generation of large-scale renewable energy projects to be carefully sited on public lands over the next several years," said BLM Director Bob Abbey.

That includes the controversial 60 megawatt West Butte Wind Power Project in Central Oregon.

Abbey, the BLM director, said projects were chosen that had demonstrated to the agency that they were far enough along that they could be approved by the end of 2010, making them eligible for federal stimulus dollars.

"The fast-track process is about focusing our staff and resources on the most promising renewable energy projects, not about cutting corners, especially when it comes to environmental analyses or opportunities for public participation," Abbey said.

The agency, first under President Bush and now under President Obama, has been rallying to encourage renewable energy development on public lands. The BLM has identified 20 million acres in 11 western states, including Oregon, it says has wind energy potential. But so far no wind farms have been built in Oregon on federal land.

And as recent stories by The Oregonian point out, there are concerns about the effect of new wind farms and transmission lines on public lands and the wildlife habitat they contain.

-- Matthew Preusch