The BLM will use the planning and NEPA processes to make decisions regarding designation of future SEZs.
The BLM will publish a Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register stating its intent to prepare a Land Use Plan amendment (or amendments) to identify a new or expanded SEZ or multiple SEZs and to prepare the associated NEPA documentation. The NOI will also begin the formal scoping process (40 CFR 1501.7). Through the scoping process, the BLM will solicit additional input on potential SEZs, and the public will be invited to nominate proposed SEZs that meet the objectives of the planning effort. Based on scoping, the BLM will identify a potential SEZ, multiple SEZs, or SEZ configurations to be analyzed through the planning and NEPA process. The BLM will document the results of its scoping in a publicly available scoping report (43 CFR 1610.2(d)).
When the BLM is preparing NEPA analyses for new potential SEZs, its goal will be to produce documents with comprehensive analyses of resources at a level of detail sufficient to allow for tiering of future solar energy projects within the SEZ if it is designated. Analysis of SEZs will also include consultations pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The potential impacts associated with the development of transmission interconnection and other infrastructure to support the establishment of an SEZ will be considered as part of the NEPA review for the SEZ. The BLM will also seek opportunities to designate any necessary utility corridors that would support the establishment of any new or expanded SEZs in a combined planning effort. The BLM will make the draft land use plan amendment and draft NEPA document available for a 90-day public comment period (43 CFR 1610.2(e)). Following the preparation of a proposed land use plan amendment and a Record of Decision (ROD) on the NEPA document, and after reviewing and resolving any protests, the BLM would issue a decision about whether to amend affected land use plans to establish a new SEZ(s).
Through the planning and NEPA process, the BLM will refine SEZ boundaries and may establish SEZ-specific management prescriptions based on resource-specific considerations. Chapter 5 of the Final Solar PEIS includes a comprehensive description of the impacts of constructing and operating solar energy generation facilities and related infrastructure and possible mitigation measures in the categories below. This information will be used as a guide to inform the analysis of SEZs. The categories are as follows: