Energy Development in the Southeast

Satisfying our nation’s need for energy, like many human activities, has the potential to harm fish and wildlife resources. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s scientists and managers strive to minimize the environmental impacts of energy development on species and their habitats. Assistance to project developers and other agencies may involve endangered species permitting, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, eagle permitting, consultation and studies for licensing hydroelectric projects, best management practices development, and other technical assistance.

I Would Like to Develop an Energy Project

For information about protected plant and animal species that could potentially affected by activities associated with energy production contact your local ecological services field station.

Can I Build in the Wetland in my Backyard?

The Service does not provide permits for construction permits in wetlands. The National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) was created to map the extent and status of wetlands in the United States. NWI data are used by natural resource managers, within the Service and throughout the Nation to promote the understanding, conservation, and restoration of wetlands. The data are not intended for regulatory use.

Wetland permits are administered by the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE). In order to determine whether or not you need a permit contact an ACE representative from your region.

How Can the Service Protect Species That May be Affected by Energy Production?

The Endangered Species Act (ESA)

The Service provides a list of federally-designated threatened and endangered species, as well as critical habitats, that are known to occur or may occur in the vicinity of a proposed project to a developer and consults on any listed species or critical habitats occurring there. If a project is proposed on private lands and federally-listed threatened or endangered species or critical habitats are likely to be affected, then the Service may assist the developer with applying for an incidental take permit under Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA.

Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act

The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act requires equal consideration and coordination of fish and wildlife conservation with other water resource development programs where the “waters of any stream or other body of water are proposed or authorized, permitted or licensed to be impounded, diverted or otherwise controlled or modified” by any agency under a Federal permit or license. Therefore, the Service must be consulted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regarding fish and wildlife resources at hydroelectric and hydrokinetic projects to prevent loss of and damage to those resources and to provide for the development and improvement of them. The Service may recommend conditions for the protection, mitigation, and enhancement of fish and wildlife resources for inclusion in any license issued by FERC.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

National Service biologists may also work with other federal agencies to complete a NEPA review or comment on environmental documents developed by other federal agencies when reviewing an energy project under NEPA.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA)

Service biologists may provide information on migratory birds and impacts to their habitats under the MBTA, and may work with project proponents to develop plans that identify and address impacts to migratory birds. The Service has signed memorandums of understanding with several agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Marine Fisheries Service and FERC addressing the responsibilities of federal agencies to protect migratory birds under the MBTA.

Bald and Golden Eagle Act

Service biologist may request information or issue Eagle Take Permits under the Bald and Golden Eagle Act.

For more information please visit our national energy development website.

Several Energy Activities Have Specific Authorities to Protect Species

Some projects may involve more specific activities by Service biologists, depending on the energy resource being developed. For example:

Coal Mining

The Service coordinates with the Office of Surface Mining or the State Regulatory Authority under the 1996 Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act Biological Opinion to avoid, minimize and document take of federally-listed threatened and endangered species impacted by surface coal mining activities.

Pipelines

Service field offices review plans for major pipelines across the country. They provide assessments of fish and wildlife impacts and work with the sponsoring agency or company to mitigate those impacts. For example, the Service works with project proponents and the FERC to develop migratory bird habitat conservation plans for interstate gas pipelines, and project proponents to develop conservation plans for other interstate pipelines.

Hydropower

In addition to recommending conditions for the protection, mitigation, and enhancement of fish and wildlife resources, pursuant to the Federal Power Act (FPA) the Service may prescribe mandatory conditions for the protection and utilization of federal lands (reservations) including national wildlife refuges, waterfowl production areas, and national fish hatcheries and may also prescribe fishways for any project. FERC must include these conditions and prescriptions in any license it issues. For hydroelectric projects exempted from FERC licensing, the Service may prescribe mandatory conditions to prevent loss of or damage to fish and wildlife; FERC must accept these fish and wildlife terms and conditions and include them in the exemption.

Wind Power

The Service uses the Land-based Wind Energy Guidelines to provide technical assistance to both private developers and federal agencies developing wind facilities on public and private lands. Technical assistance recommendations to reduce impacts to wildlife and their habitats may include information on siting individual turbines, best management practices for construction and operational modifications. A Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy may be compiled by a developer in order to document potential impacts to wildlife and their habitats, actions taken to avoid and reduce impacts, and any other conservation measures implemented.

A wind developer may decide to apply for an Eagle Take Permit under the Bald and Golden Eagle Act. The Service may help the developer to draft an Eagle Conservation Plan that can assist developers in avoiding and minimizing impacts to eagles, and can assist a developer in collecting the information that is required to apply for an Eagle Take Permit.

Can I see Comments on Projects Licensed by FERC?

Projects are often under the jurisdiction of FERC. If the Service provided comments, they can be found in the FERC document library.

Other Resources

A map of the USA showing infrastructure projects.

Federal Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard

The permitting dashboard is an online tool for federal agencies, project developers and interested members of the public to track the Federal government’s permitting and review process for large or complex infrastructure projects. Learn more...

The interactive map of the FIPD shows infrastructure projects from across the country.

A map with a polygon drawn to designate an area of interest for development.

Information for Planning and Consultation (IPAC)

 Learn more...

IPaC allows users to draw a polygon around an area of interest to retrieve a list of threatened and endangered species.

Contact

Christine Willis, christine_willis@fws.gov
Southeast Region Energy Coordinator
(404) 679-7310