[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 124 (Tuesday, June 30, 2009)]
[Pages 31307-31308]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-15471]



Bureau of Land Management


Notice of Availability of Maps and Additional Public Scoping for 
Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement To Develop and Implement 
Agency-Specific Programs for Solar Energy Development; Bureau of Land 
Management Approach for Processing Existing and Future Solar 

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Availability.


SUMMARY: The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Bureau of Land 
Management (BLM) (the Agencies) are announcing the availability of maps 
depicting solar energy study areas to be analyzed in their joint 
Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to Develop and Implement 
Agency-Specific Programs for Solar Energy Development (Solar PEIS) and 
the opportunity for additional public scoping. The BLM is issuing this 
Notice to inform the public of the availability of the solar energy 
study area maps; to solicit public comments for consideration in 
identifying environmental issues, existing resource data, and industry 
interest with respect to the solar energy study areas in particular; 
and to explain how the BLM will address existing and future solar 
energy development applications on BLM-administered lands.

DATES: The time period for public comments starts with the publication 
of this notice in the Federal Register and will continue through July 
30, 2009. Comments received or postmarked after that date will be 
considered to the extent practicable.

ADDRESSES: You may submit written comments by the following methods:
     Electronically, using the online comment form available on 
the project Web site: http://solareis.anl.gov. This is the preferred 
method of commenting.
     In writing, addressed to: Solar Energy PEIS, Argonne 
National Laboratory, 9700 S. Cass Avenue--EVS/900, Argonne, IL 60439.
    Availability of Maps: Maps of the solar energy study areas are 
available electronically from the project Web site: http://solareis.anl.gov. The maps may also be obtained from the following BLM 

Arizona State Office, One North Central Avenue, Suite 800, Phoenix, AZ 
California State Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Suite W-1623, Sacramento, CA 
Colorado State Office, 2850 Youngfield Street, Lakewood, CO 80215.
Nevada State Office, 1340 Financial Blvd., Reno, NV 89520.
New Mexico State Office, 1474 Rodeo Road, Santa Fe, NM 87505.
Utah State Office, 440 West 200 South, Suite 500, Salt Lake City, UT 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information contact: Linda 
Resseguie, BLM Washington Office, [email protected], 202-452-
7774; or Lisa Jorgensen, Department of Energy, Golden Field Office, 
[email protected], 303-275-4906. You may also visit the Solar 
PEIS Web site at http://solareis.anl.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On May 29, 2008, the Agencies published a 
Notice of Intent to Prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact 
Statement to Evaluate Solar Energy Development (73 FR 30908). 
Subsequently, the Agencies held a series of public scoping meetings, 
received public comments, and published a scoping summary report, 
available at http://solareis.anl.gov.
    On March 11, 2009, the Secretary of the Interior issued Secretarial 
Order No. 3285, which announced a policy goal of identifying and 
prioritizing specific locations best suited for large-scale production 
of solar energy. Also, the BLM received funding from the American 
Recovery and Reinvestment Act to accelerate permitting of renewable 
energy projects on public lands. A portion of that funding is being 
used to enhance the Solar PEIS by enabling in-depth environmental 
analysis of 24 specific tracts of public

[[Page 31308]]

lands which have excellent solar development potential and limited 
resource conflicts.
    The Solar PEIS will help BLM identify lands appropriate for solar 
energy development and establish a comprehensive list of mitigation 
requirements applicable to all future solar energy development on BLM-
administered lands. As part of the Solar PEIS, the Agencies will 
conduct in-depth environmental analyses of 24 solar energy study areas 
for the purpose of determining whether such areas should be designated 
as Solar Energy Zones (SEZs), specific locations determined best suited 
for large-scale production of solar energy.
    The solar energy study areas were identified based on preliminary 
results of California's Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative, the 
Western Governors' Association Western Renewable Energy Zone and 
Transmission Study, and existing BLM resource information. Criteria 
used to identify solar energy study areas include requirements that the 
area: be a minimum size of 2,000 acres, be near existing roads and 
existing or designated transmission line routes, and have a slope of 
less than 5%. Sensitive resource areas were also removed from 
consideration, including the following categories of lands:
    (1) National Landscape Conservation System lands (except that lands 
within the California Desert Conservation Area that have no other 
special designation may be included in a solar energy study area);
    (2) Threatened and endangered species designated critical habitat;
    (3) Back-country byways;
    (4) Areas of known Tribal concern;
    (5) Areas of known high cultural site density; and
    (6) Areas designated for right-of-way avoidance or right-of-way 
exclusion in BLM land use plans. Such areas include BLM areas of 
critical environmental concern, areas with important visual resources, 
special recreation management areas, areas allocated to maintain 
wilderness characteristics, wildlife movement corridors, and areas 
where the BLM has made a commitment to take certain actions with 
respect to sensitive species habitat.
    Some or all of the solar energy study areas may be found 
appropriate for designation as SEZs as described above. The Agencies 
are making the maps of the solar energy study areas available to the 
public and soliciting written comments to provide an opportunity for 
public input as part of the ongoing Solar PEIS analysis. Specifically, 
the Agencies request information and comments on the potential for 
significant impacts of solar energy development on known resources 
within a solar energy study area and the economic viability of solar 
energy development within specific areas. No additional public meetings 
are planned prior to the release of the draft Solar PEIS; however, the 
public will have additional opportunities to comment when the draft 
Solar PEIS is released.
    The BLM's objective for the Solar PEIS is to create a more 
efficient process for authorizing solar energy development on public 
lands that would also:
     Facilitate near-term utility-scale solar energy 
development on public lands;
     Minimize potential environmental, social, and economic 
     Provide the solar industry flexibility in proposing and 
developing solar energy projects (location, facility size, technology, 
     Optimize existing transmission corridors; and
     Standardize the authorization process for solar energy 
development on BLM-administered lands.
    The BLM will continue to accept new solar applications. The BLM is 
in the process of considering alternative procedures, such as non-
competitive and competitive, application fees, and diligent development 
requirements, for solar energy development applications within the 
solar energy study areas. Any entity with an existing application for 
lands within the solar energy study areas received by the BLM prior to 
June 30, 2009 will continue to be processed under the BLM's current 
procedures. Applications received after June 30, 2009 for lands inside 
the solar energy study areas will be subject to the Record of Decision 
(ROD) for the Solar PEIS and any alternative procedures developed by 
BLM for non-competitive and competitive processes. All applications 
received for lands outside of the solar energy study areas will be 
processed under the BLM's current procedures. Any right-of-way grant 
for a solar energy application issued after the BLM's ROD for the Solar 
PEIS may be issued subject to the requirements adopted in the ROD.
    The Agencies invite interested Federal and State agencies, 
organizations, Native American tribes and members of the public to 
submit written comments to assist in identifying significant 
environmental issues, existing resource data, and industry interest 
with respect to the solar energy study areas. You may submit comments 
in writing using one of the methods listed in the ``ADDRESSES'' section 
above. Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comments--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

Mike Pool,
Acting Director, Bureau of Land Management.
[FR Doc. E9-15471 Filed 6-29-09; 8:45 am]