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BLM Initiates Environmental Analysis of Solar Energy Development

May 29, 2008

As part of its ongoing efforts to increase domestic energy production and ensure greater energy security, the Bureau of Land Management has initiated a joint programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) with the Department of Energy (DOE) to assess the environmental, social, and economic impacts associated with solar energy development on BLM-managed public land in six western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

Notice of Intent published in the May 29, 2008, Federal Register opened a public comment period on the scope of the PEIS.  For more information, see the Solar Energy Development Programmatic EIS Information Center.

The joint PEIS will also evaluate a number of alternative management strategies to determine which presents the best management approach for the agencies to adopt in terms of mitigating potential impacts and facilitating solar energy development while carrying out their respective missions.

During the PEIS work, the BLM will focus on the 125 applications already received for rights-of-way for solar energy development, while deferring new applications until after completion of the PEIS. The 125 existing applications are for land covering almost one million acres and with the potential to generate 70 billion watts of electricity, or enough to power 20 million average American homes. The PEIS will establish a process for accepting future applications, possibly through a competitive process, which is likely to attract companies with the experience and resources necessary to quickly deploy solar energy projects.

—Don Gwinner