LAKEWOOD, Colo. — In a major step forward for President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, Western Area Power Administration is now offering a new environmental review process that is expected to reduce the time it takes to review wind project proposals in six mid-western states known for favorable wind conditions.
“WAPA will help advance America’s energy economy by opening the door to more clean energy development while continuing to provide protection for our nation’s unique and valuable natural resources with this new guidance in place,” said Administrator and CEO Mark Gabriel.
WAPA published a record of decision in the Federal Register, notifying the public that the organization will offer the Upper Great Plains Wind Energy Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement as an option to support future wind project environmental reviews in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota that propose to interconnect to Western’s transmission facilities.
Co-led with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Programmatic EIS and accompanying Programmatic Biological Assessment build on years of knowledge and practices developed in previous wind projects to identify common characteristics and environmental impacts of wind projects in the area. The EIS recommends a series of mitigation measures for project proponents to address in their project planning before starting an environmental review.
Then, project-specific environmental analyses, either environmental assessments or streamlined EISs, would “tier off” the analyses in the Programmatic EIS.
The Programmatic EIS allows proposed wind farms to address environmental concerns in a consistent, thorough and transparent manner. This effort protects the region’s wildlife resources while simultaneously supporting the president’s “all of the above” energy strategy — a win-win for clean energy and the environment.
“Environmental impacts universal to all wind projects in our region have now been identified, analyzed and mitigated to the extent possible in the programmatic EIS. As long as identified mitigation measures are adopted by project proponents, we can focus time on addressing site-specific issues related to an individual proposed project,” said Senior Vice President and Upper Great Plains Regional Manager Bob Harris. “This should streamline our environmental review process and decisions regarding wind projects that desire to connect to Western’s extensive transmission system in those states.”
“The EIS demonstrates how mutually beneficial partnerships and evolving our services to meet today’s needs will power a brighter, cleaner and more secure energy future,” said Gabriel. “We are proud to have a partner in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and look forward to using the Programmatic EIS and BA to power the energy frontier.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will issue a separate record of decision.
For more information on the EIS, including seeing the record of decision, visit http://go.usa.gov/3fFKm or http://plainswindeis.anl.gov.