Energy Permits, Policies, and Authorities

Many species that may be affected by energy production receive protection under the following federal laws, which are administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service):

A variety of environmental assessments and permits may be considered when the Service reviews energy projects.

  • Energy developers can apply for incidental take permits if a federally endangered or threatened species, or a bald or golden eagle, is likely to be affected by a proposed project. Incidental take permits are offered under the ESA and the BGEPA. Both permits are voluntary but strongly suggested if project construction and/or operation may result in disturbance, injury, or harm to endangered or threatened species, or to bald or golden eagles. It is illegal to "take" endangered or threatened species, and bald eagles or golden eagles, as defined under these authorities. Incidental take permits under the ESA are called section 10(a)(1)(B) permits and require a habitat conservation plan.
  • The Service may recommend a project operator handle or remove dead birds in the project area for research purposes. A special purpose permit is required under the MBTA to handle or remove bird carcasses from a project site.
  • Any project that has a federal nexus, such as a project that receives federal funding, a federal permit, or other federal authorization requires the federal agency to ensure that the continued existence of a federally endangered or threatened species is not jeopardized. This process is called a section 7 consultation. Federal agencies use information provided by the Service to determine whether federally endangered or threatened species may be affected by the project.
  • Comments may also be provided under the FWCA when the project requires a federal permit and is in U.S. waters.
  • The Service also requires a special use permit for projects occurring on refuge lands.

Find information on other types of Service permits.

The Service is also involved in project review with other federal agencies and may comment on permits under the Clean Water Act and the Federal Power Act, as part of the review process.

Projects that may significantly affect the human environment may also require a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review. The Service may write a NEPA document, or review another agency's NEPA document. NEPA allows the federal agencies to consider various aspects of the project including impacts to migratory bird impacts, federally endangered or threatened species, aquatic species, and ecosystems. The public has the opportunity to review NEPA documents and provide comments to the federal agency. Projects that often have a NEPA review are interstate pipelines, transmission lines on federal lands, issuance of a permit, and offshore lease sales.

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