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New Tribal-Land Leasing Rules Aim To Streamline Renewable Energy Development

Oct 14th 2015 at 11:09 PM

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The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has announced a major reform of federal surface leasing regulations for American Indian lands that the DOI says will streamline the approval process for renewable energy development in Indian Country.The proposed rule would modify regulations governing the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) process for approving the lease of surface acres on lands the federal government holds in trust for tribes and individuals. As trustee, the DOI is responsible for managing approximately 56 million surface acres in Indian Country.The proposed reform identifies specific processes, with enforceable timelines, through which the BIA must review leases.


The regulation establishes separate, simplified processes for residential, business and renewable energy development, so that, for example, a lease for a single-family home is distinguished from a large solar energy project.The proposed rule provides a 30-day limit for the BIA to issue decisions on residential leases, subleases and mortgages. For commercial or industrial development, the BIA would have 60 days to review leases and subleases. If the BIA does not complete its review of subleases within this time frame, those agreements will automatically go into effect."The proposed regulation incorporates numerous changes requested by tribal leaders during extensive consultations this past year and better meets the goals of facilitating and expediting the leasing process for trust lands," says Principal Deputy Assistant for Indian Affairs Del Laverdure.


SolarCity and Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofA Merrill) have agreed to terms on financing for SolarStrong, SolarCity's five-year plan to build more than $1 billion in solar power projects for privatized U.S. military housing communities across the country.As part of the project, SolarCity plans to partner with military housing developers to install, own and operate rooftop solar installations. SolarStrong is ultimately expected to create up to 300 MW of solar generation, SolarCity says.However, the company was unable to finalize the loan guarantee that it sought from the U.S.


Department of Energy (DOE) before the program's deadline. In the wake of the loan guarantee failure, SolarCity announced that it would need to scale back the project.In its announcement this week, SolarCity says SolarStrong will outfit up to 120,000 military housing units. The original plans called for installing solar on up to 160,000 homes, for a total of 371 MW."BofA Merrill never wavered when the loan guarantee wasn't finalized and worked with us to create a financing structure that works without it," notes Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity. "The fact that SolarStrong can move forward without a federal loan guarantee is a clear indication that long-term incentives such as the investment tax credit are working."

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