Wednesday, March 14, 2012

BLM plans public meetings on renewable energy development areas in AZ

Public to get a chance to comment on Environmental Impactment Statement
PHOENIX, AZ – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Arizona is holding a series of public meetings on the draft environmental impactment statement (EIS) for its Restoration Design Energy Project.
The meetings are to inform the public and give them a chance to comment on the draft EIS.
Meetings are scheduled in March and April:
March 20:  Phoenix­­­­, Sheraton Crescent Hotel, 2620 West Dunlap Avenue
March 21:  Flagstaff, High Country Conference Center, 201 West Butler Avenue 
March 22:  Kingman, Hampton Inn, 1791 Sycamore Avenue
April 10:  Yuma, Yuma Civic and Convention Center, 1440 Desert Hill Drive
April 11:  Tucson, Holiday Inn, 4550 South Palo Verde Road
The open house meetings are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. A formal presentation will be at 7 p.m. It will include an introduction to the Restoration Design Energy Project, or RDEP, and the alternatives that the BLM is considering. After the presentation, members of the public will be able to make comments.
The RDEP will identify lands across Arizona that may be suitable for renewable energy development and will establish a baseline for environmental protection measures for such projects. The focus is on previously disturbed sites and lands with low resource sensitivity and few environmental conflicts.
As part of the project, the BLM is identifying renewable energy development areas, or REDAs. Those areas would be designated in the BLM’s resource management plans, making the siting and permitting of renewable energy projects more efficient. 
Among the considerations for the identification of REDAs:
·         Using formerly disturbed sites or lands with low resource sensitivity;
·         Limiting renewable development to areas within 5 miles of designated utility corridors and existing or proposed transmission lines;
·         Designating lands near cities, towns, or industrial centers;
·         Addressing water issues by instituting design features to avoid negative impacts to watersheds, groundwater supply, and water quality;
·         Identifying suitable areas for development on BLM-managed lands that have been identified for disposal.
The BLM’s preferred alternative in the draft EIS is for the designation of lands within 5 miles of utility corridors and existing transmission lines or near a point of demand and includes features to protect water resources. It also includes lands identified for disposal. The BLM manages 237,100 acres in Arizona that meet that criteria.
The REDAs could be used for wind or solar projects, both utility-scale (more than 20 megawatts) or smaller distributed-scale development.
In addition to the REDA evaluations, the BLM is also evaluating a solar energy zone near Dateland in Yuma County, Arizona, about 70 miles east of Yuma.  The solar energy zone evaluation is a complement to BLM’s six-state Solar Energy Programmatic EIS.  The Solar Energy EIS focuses on utility-scale solar development.
In considering establishing the Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone, the BLM looked for these characteristics:
·         an expanse of available BLM land larger than 2,500 acres;
·         proximity to an electrical transmission system with available capacity;
·         limited known environmental or cultural issues;
·         proximity to roads and infrastructure;
·         adjacent to existing solar developments.
The RDEP draft EIS analyzes three footprints for the solar energy zone:  2,760 acres, 6,770 acres and 20,600 acres.  The 6,770-acre site is the BLM’s preliminary preference.
An electronic copy of the draft EIS is available at
The RDEP EIS does not evaluate specific sites and does not eliminate the need for further environmental review of individual sites. The BLM will make decisions on a case-by-case basis as applications are received.  Proposed renewable developments outside of a renewable energy development area or a solar energy zone will also be considered on a case-by-case basis and are subject to applicable BLM state and national policy being developed for utility-scale solar energy development through the Solar Energy Programmatic EIS.
The BLM is taking comments on the draft EIS through May 16. All comments will be considered and addressed in the final EIS, which is planned for release later this year.
Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:
·         E-mail:;
·         Fax:  Attn:  Lane Cowger, (602) 417-9454;
·         Mail or other delivery service:  BLM Arizona State Office, Attn:  Restoration Design Energy Project, One North Central Avenue, Suite 800, Phoenix, AZ 85004-4427.

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