[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 249 (Tuesday, December 30, 2014)]
[Pages 78465-78468]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-30481]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-HQ-ES-2014-N257; FXHC11220900000-145-FF09E33000]

Information Collection Request Sent to the Office of Management 
and Budget (OMB) for Approval; Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) have sent an Information 
Collection Request (ICR) to OMB for review and approval. We summarize 
the ICR below and describe the nature of the collection and the 
estimated burden and cost. This information collection is scheduled to 
expire on December 31, 2014. We may not conduct or sponsor and a person 
is not required to respond to a collection of information unless it 
displays a currently valid OMB control number. However, under OMB 
regulations, we may continue to conduct or sponsor this information 
collection while it is pending at OMB.

DATES: You must submit comments on or before January 29, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments and suggestions on this information 
collection to the Desk Officer for the Department of the Interior at 
OMB-OIRA at (202) 395-5806 (fax) or OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov 
(email). Please provide a copy of your comments to the Service 
Information Collection Clearance Officer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, MS BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803 
(mail), or hope_grey@fws.gov (email). Please include ``1018-0148'' in 
the subject line of your comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: To request additional information 
about this ICR, contact Hope Grey at hope_grey@fws.gov (email) or 703-
358-2482 (telephone). You may review the ICR online at http://www.reginfo.gov. Follow the instructions to review Department of the 
Interior collections under review by OMB.


Information Collection Request

    OMB Control Number: 1018-0148.
    Title: Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines.
    Service Form Number: None.
    Type of Request: Extension of a currently approved collection.
    Description of Respondents: Developers and operators of wind energy 
    Respondent's Obligation: Voluntary.
    Frequency of Collection: On occasion.

                                                             Number of       Number of       time per      Total annual   Nonhour burden   Total annual
         Activity (reporting and recordkeeping)             respondents      responses       response      burden hours      cost per     nonhour burden
                                                                                              (hours)                        response          cost
Tier 1 (Desktop Analysis)...............................              40              40              81           3,240            $825         $33,000
Tier 2 (Site Characterization)..........................              35              35             369          12,915           3,750         131,250
Tier 3 (Pre-construction studies).......................              30              30          14,695         440,850         149,288       4,478,640
Tier 4 (Post-construction fatality monitoring and                     45              45           4,023         181,035          40,875       1,839,375
 habitat studies).......................................
Tier 5 (Other post-construction studies)................              10              10           6,939          69,390          70,500         705,000

[[Page 78466]]

    Totals..............................................             160             160  ..............         707,430  ..............       7,187,265

    Estimated Annual Nonhour Burden Cost: $7,187,265. Costs will depend 
on the size and complexity of issues associated with each project. 
These expenses may include, but are not limited to: Travel expenses for 
site visits, studies conducted, and meetings with the Service and other 
Federal and State agencies; training in survey methodologies; data 
management; special transportation, such as all-terrain vehicle or 
helicopter; equipment needed for acoustic, telemetry, or radar 
monitoring, and carcass storage. The Tier 3 estimate is very high 
because it includes every type of pre-construction monitoring study 
that could potentially be conducted. It is more likely that a selection 
of these studies will be performed at any given site, depending on the 
species of concern identified and other site-specific conditions.
    Abstract: As wind energy production increased, both developers and 
wildlife agencies recognized the need for a system to evaluate and 
address the potential negative impacts of wind energy projects on 
species of concern. We issued voluntary Land-Based Wind Energy 
Guidelines (http://www.fws.gov/windenergy) in March 2012 to provide a 
structured, scientific process for addressing wildlife conservation 
concerns at all stages of land-based wind energy development. The 
Guidelines also promote effective communication among wind energy 
developers and Federal, State, tribal, and local conservation agencies. 
When used in concert with appropriate regulatory tools, the Guidelines 
are the best practical approach for conserving species of concern. We 
are asking OMB to renew approval for the information collection 
requirements in the Guidelines. We are not making any changes to the 
    The Guidelines discuss various risks to species of concern from 
wind energy projects, including collisions with wind turbines and 
associated infrastructure; loss and degradation of habitat from 
turbines and infrastructure; fragmentation of large habitat blocks into 
smaller segments that may not support sensitive species; displacement 
and behavioral changes; and indirect effects, such as increased 
predator populations or introduction of invasive plants. The Guidelines 
assist developers in identifying species of concern that may 
potentially be affected by proposed projects, including, but not 
limited to:
     Migratory birds;
     Bald and golden eagles and other birds of prey;
     Prairie chickens and sage grouse; and
     Listed, proposed, or candidate endangered and threatened 
    The Guidelines follow a tiered approach. The wind energy developer 
begins at Tier 1 or Tier 2, which entails gathering existing data to 
help identify any potential risks to wildlife and their habitats at 
proposed wind energy project sites. The developer then proceeds through 
subsequent tiers, as appropriate, to collect information in increasing 
detail until the level of risk is adequately ascertained and a decision 
on whether or not to develop the site can be made. Many projects may 
not proceed beyond Tier 1 or 2, when developers become aware of 
potential barriers, including high risks to wildlife. Developers would 
only have an interest in adhering to the Guidelines for those projects 
that proceed beyond Tier 1 or 2.
    At each tier, wind energy developers and operators should retain 
documentation to provide to the Service. Such documentation may include 
copies of correspondence with the Service, results of pre- and post-
construction studies conducted at project sites, bird and bat 
conservation strategies, or any other record that supports a 
developer's adherence to the Guidelines. The extent of the 
documentation will depend on the conditions of the site being 
developed. Sites with greater risk of impacts to wildlife and habitats 
will likely involve more extensive communication with the Service and 
longer durations of pre- and post-construction studies than sites with 
little risk.
    Distributed or community-scale wind energy projects are unlikely to 
have significant adverse impacts to wildlife and their habitats. The 
Guidelines recommend that developers of these small-scale projects do 
the desktop analysis described in Tier 1 or Tier 2 using publicly 
available information to determine whether they should communicate with 
the Service. Since such project designs usually include a single 
turbine associated with existing development, conducting a Tier 1 or 
Tier 2 analysis for distributed or community-scale wind energy projects 
should incur limited nonhour burden costs. For such projects, if there 
is no potential risk identified, a developer will have no need to 
communicate with the Service regarding the project or to conduct 
studies described in Tiers 3, 4, and 5.
    Adherence to the Guidelines is voluntary. Following the Guidelines 
does not relieve any individual, company, or agency of the 
responsibility to comply with applicable laws and regulations. 
Developers of wind energy projects have a responsibility to comply with 
all applicable laws and regulations, including the Migratory Bird 
Treaty Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and the 
Endangered Species Act.

Comments Received and Our Responses

    Comments: On July 3, 2014, we published in the Federal Register (79 
FR 38055) a notice of our intent to request that OMB renew approval for 
this information collection. In that notice, we solicited comments for 
60 days, ending on September 2, 2014. We received comments from the 
wind energy industry, a State agency, an environmental consulting firm, 
an environmental nongovernmental organization (NGO), and an independent 
consultant to the environmental NGO community. The comments are sorted 
below by relevance to the questions posed in the July 3, 2014, notice, 
followed by our responses. We invited comments concerning this 
information collection on:
    Whether or not the collection of information is necessary, 
including whether or not the information will have practical utility.
    Commenters felt that the collection of information was necessary 
and that the information has practical utility. We did not receive any 
comments to the contrary. It was noted that the necessity and utility 
of information collected are dependent upon whether information has 
previously been collected in the study area. We agree that existing 
information should be used, where available. The Guidelines encourage 
use of credible, publicly available information including published 
studies, technical reports, databases, and information from agencies, 

[[Page 78467]]

conservation organizations, and/or local experts. Another commenter 
noted that any proposal to conduct a study should define the questions 
that are expected to be answered, because studies are sometimes 
proposed without regard for whether the information learned will 
contribute to useful project evaluation. We agree that information 
should not be collected for the sake of collecting information. To 
accomplish this, the Guidelines pose questions within each Tier to help 
developers and Service staff identify data needs and any necessary 
surveys or studies.
    The accuracy of our estimate of the burden for this collection of 
    One commenter noted that the estimate of 50 responses and 
respondents annually submitting information related to Tier 4 seems low 
considering that the Guidelines are intended to apply not only to 
projects initiated after publication of the Guidelines, but also to 
projects that were already in development and already operating. 
Another commenter provided a revised estimated burden calculated by 
members of the wind energy industry community. We used the industry's 
figures in revising the estimate of the burden, and also agreed with 
the comment that the number of respondents in Tier 4 should be higher 
to reflect ongoing fatality studies at existing facilities. In 
addition, we revised the total number of respondents and responses 
based on the number of wind energy projects the Service reviewed in 
fiscal year 2013. These changes are reflected in the table above. We 
have decreased our estimates for the total number of respondents. 
Although Tier 4 responses have increased in proportion to the total 
number of respondents, the number reflected in the table above is less 
than what we provided in our previous request to OMB.
    A third commenter noted that the burden estimates are dependent 
upon the size of the project, complexity of the issues, and experience 
and equipment needs of the consultant, as well as previous information 
available for the site. We agree that the factors listed all affect 
estimates of project costs.
    Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the 
information to be collected.
    Regarding the quality of the data, several commenters felt that 
there should be a standardized methodology for collection of pre- and 
post-construction data. We agree that standardized methodologies are 
ideal. The Guidelines encourage the use of common methods and metrics. 
Such standardization allows for comparisons among projects and provides 
some certainty regarding what will be asked of a developer for specific 
projects. However, because of the need for flexibility in application, 
the Guidelines do not make specific recommendations on protocol 
elements for pre- and post-construction studies. The Service's wind 
energy Web site and the Guidelines direct developers to tools and 
resources that have been developed and compiled through collaborative 
efforts and partnerships between Federal, State, and tribal agencies; 
wind energy developers; and NGOs interested in wind energy-wildlife 
    We received comments on specific survey methodologies and study 
design considerations, which detailed the manner in which studies 
should be designed, executed, and evaluated, and provided analysis of 
the usefulness and efficacy of certain pre- and post-construction 
survey methods. As noted, the Guidelines do not recommend certain 
methods over others, and instead point users to methods generally 
accepted by the wind-wildlife community as scientifically valid with an 
aim towards greater consistency.
    One commenter suggested that in addition to standardized data 
collection, post-construction fatality monitoring should also be 
automated using new and emerging technologies, and that these automated 
systems should be required as conditions of receiving incidental take 
permits under the Endangered Species Act or Bald and Golden Eagle 
Protection Act. This suggestion extends beyond the purview of the 
Guidelines in terms of permitting requirements. In addition, we do not 
have sufficient information about these systems at this time to 
evaluate their efficacy. If such technologies become a reality, their 
use, along with a suite of other existing tools, could potentially 
improve estimates of strike-related fatalities at wind energy 
    Regarding the utility of the data, one commenter questioned whether 
the use of voluntary guidelines is effective due to a lack of use by 
public and private entities. The commenter referenced a map that shows 
that wind energy facilities have been, and continue to be, developed in 
areas of high risk to migratory birds, contrary to the purpose of the 
Guidelines to guide development away from areas of highest risk to more 
suitable areas. We are currently in the process of evaluating the 
efficacy and use of the Guidelines, and the Service is considering 
regulatory options. Based on feedback from the wind energy industry, 
and from Service staff, the Guidelines are often successful in 
improving communication and lead to development of wind projects that 
are safer for wildlife, but in other cases are not successful in 
preventing wind energy facilities from being constructed in areas of 
high risk to wildlife.
    Regarding clarity, several commenters indicated the need for 
greater transparency in pre- and post-construction monitoring results, 
study design and protocol, and adaptive management plans. Several 
reasons were given regarding the need for greater transparency, 
including facilitating study replication and consistency, allowing 
public evaluation of the effectiveness of the Guidelines, improved 
quality of information collected, and the need for greater public 
oversight generally. It was noted that often these data are treated as 
proprietary information, or are considered as ``confidential business 
information'' and are withheld from requests made via the Freedom of 
Information Act. While we agree that the public availability of data 
would facilitate greater oversight, improved consistency and 
comparability in study design and results, and improved landscape-level 
and cumulative effects analyses, we do not have the authority to 
require companies to share data that they own. Often, we receive 
reports that contain an analysis of data collected, and not the raw 
data itself. The information that is provided to us will continue to be 
evaluated on a case-by-case basis when it is requested via the Freedom 
of Information Act. We are developing tools that would allow companies 
to transmit fatality monitoring data via an online system that would 
provide anonymity, but still make the data available. We will continue 
to pursue other means of increasing the transparency of information 
related to study methodology and fatality data.
    Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on 
    One commenter felt that the burden of adhering to the Guidelines is 
adequately compensated for by the discretion that will be exercised by 
the Office of Law Enforcement should violations of the Migratory Bird 
Treaty Act (MBTA) or Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) 
occur. This comment has been noted, although it does not provide 
suggestions for ways to further minimize the burden of the information 
collection. We also received a comment suggesting burdens could be 
minimized through use of ``desktop tools'' or existing publicly 
available information online in Tiers 1 and 2, and by siting projects 
in areas with minimal risk to

[[Page 78468]]

rare, threatened, and endangered species. We agree with the commenter 
that use of existing information reduces the burden on respondents. The 
Guidelines encourage use of credible, publicly available information, 
including published studies, technical reports, databases, and 
information from agencies, local conservation organizations, and/or 
local experts. We also agree that burdens are reduced by siting 
projects in areas with least risk to wildlife and their habitats, and 
note that this is exactly what we hope to accomplish by working with 
developers to implement the Guidelines.

Other Comments

    Several other comments were provided that were not pertinent to the 
questions asked in the notice. These comments addressed regulatory 
tools for migratory bird conservation, BGEPA programmatic permits for 
incidental take of eagles, suggestions for what types of mitigation 
methods should be acceptable as compensation for loss of protected 
species, enforcement actions by the Office of Law Enforcement against 
wind facilities compared with other energy technologies, splitting 
environmental study responsibilities among separate consultants, and 
stakeholder involvement in the development of adaptive management 
plans. One commenter also noted that the Service did not estimate the 
burden on the public to access the information collected via Freedom of 
Information Act requests, administrative appeals, and lawsuits. The 
Paperwork Reduction Act requires that we analyze the burden placed on 
those who submit information to us, not on the burden of others 
attempting to access that information.

Request for Public Comments

    We again invite comments concerning this information collection on:
     Whether or not the collection of information is necessary, 
including whether or not the information will have practical utility;
     The accuracy of our estimate of the burden for this 
collection of information;
     Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the 
information to be collected; and
     Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of 
information on respondents.
    Comments that you submit in response to this notice are a matter of 
public record. Before including your address, phone number, email 
address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you 
should be aware that your entire comment, including your personal 
identifying information, may be made publicly available at any time. 
While you can ask OMB in your comment to withhold your personal 
identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that it 
will be done.

    Dated: December 23, 2014.
Tina A. Campbell,
Chief, Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-30481 Filed 12-29-14; 8:45 am]