The Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) has extended the public comment period for the Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (“Draft Solar PEIS”) by thirty days to April 16, 2011. The Draft Solar PEIS should be of interest to any developer seeking to build utility-scale solar energy projects or associated transmission infrastructure on public lands in the Southwestern United States, as the adoption of any of the study’s proposed plans of action could dramatically influence solar energy development on BLM-administered lands.
The Draft Solar PEIS is a detailed study released in December 2010 by BLM and the Department of Energy that evaluates the environmental, economic and social impacts of solar energy development on BLM-managed public lands in the Southwest. As part of the study, BLM identified 24 “solar energy zones” (“SEZs”) that it deemed most suitable for environmentally sound, utility-scale solar energy development in six states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. The study addressed three alternatives for managing utility-scale solar energy development: a solar energy development program alternative and a solar energy zone alternative (collectively, the “action” alternatives), and a no-action alternative.