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2023/2024 Solar Programmatic EIS

The Draft Utility-Scale Solar Energy Development Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Draft Solar Programmatic EIS) is now available for public comment on the BLM National NEPA Register (ePlanning), as detailed in the Notice of Availability published in the Federal Register. This Programmatic EIS updates the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 2012 Western Solar Plan to support current and future national clean energy goals, long-term energy security, climate resilience, and improved conservation outcomes. The proposal would allow the BLM to more appropriately site solar projects to meet the goal of siting 25 GW of renewable energy on public lands by 2025, as well as help lay a framework for additional future development. Large-scale planning, such as this effort, will help expedite implementation of national clean energy goals while maintaining BLM's multiple‑use mission.

The BLM will be hosting two virtual and six in-person, open-house public meetings during the comment period to provide information and answer questions. The public can submit written comments through April 18, 2024. For the public meeting schedule and to submit a comment, visit the BLM National NEPA Project Register (ePlanning) website. Public meeting information is available on the How to Get Involved page of the BLM National NEPA Register.

The Draft Solar Programmatic EIS evaluates five action alternatives, each opening different amounts of public land to solar development applications under different criteria such as proximity to transmission infrastructure. These alternatives exclude certain public lands — such as protected lands, designated critical habitat, and areas where important cultural resources exist — from solar energy development and identify reasonable areas available to solar development proposals. The BLM's data viewer provides interactive maps of the alternatives. Public input will inform a Final Solar Programmatic EIS and Record of Decision (ROD). The BLM would then conduct further project-level analyses for solar energy proposals prior to any project approval to ensure project siting is appropriate and location-specific.

The Draft Solar Programmatic EIS does not interrupt the processing of existing or new solar energy development applications. BLM decisions to authorize solar energy development projects continue to conform to the BLM's approved resource management plans. When the ROD for the project is issued, the corresponding plan amendments will be in effect for processing new solar energy development applications.

Background

The BLM initiated the Programmatic EIS for solar energy development project in December 2022 through publication of a Notice of Intent (NOI) to update and build upon the BLM's 2012 Western Solar Plan. The NOI was published in the Federal Register to inform the public about the proposed actions; announce plans to conduct a series of public scoping meetings; and solicit public input for consideration in establishing the scope and content of the PEIS, alternatives, and environmental issues and impacts. In early 2023 BLM held three virtual and 12 in-person public scoping meetings to solicit initial input on the effort. The Scoping Summary Report provides details on the comments received during the scoping period.