Republican senators press Stone-Manning on BLM’s solar focus

By Scott Streater | 05/02/2024 01:23 PM EDT

The Bureau of Land Management’s proposed plan would open up 22 million acres across the West for commercial-scale solar farms.

Tracy Stone-Manning sitting in a hearing room.

Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning prepares to testify before the House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee during a hearing on Capitol Hill on March 29, 2023. Francis Chung/POLITICO

A coalition of Western Republican senators wants the Bureau of Land Management to tap the breaks on a proposed solar development plan that would open 22 million acres for potential commercial-scale projects.

Led by Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), a group of six senators sent a letter Thursday to BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning warning that the agency’s ongoing efforts to expand solar power “cannot be done at the complete expense of pre-existing multiple uses,” such as livestock grazing.

The target of the senators’ angst is a proposed update to BLM’s “Western Solar Plan” that would designate 22 million acres of federal lands in 11 states as suitable for commercial-scale solar development, and open for project applications that would go through streamlined permitting. The goal is to lead developers to build projects on lands with high solar-power potential and low natural resource conflicts.


“Due to the configuration and containment of solar infrastructure, solar projects must be carefully scoped so as not to interfere with other established multiple uses,” they write. “It is critical to consider the opportunity cost of restricting land to an exclusive, singular use.”