Environmental Study Proposes Increased Wind Energy Development on Public Lands

Wind energy developers may obtain greater access to many promising wind energy sites on federal lands in the Western U.S. based on the proposals of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management ("BLM").  BLM has released a final programmatic environmental impact statement ("EIS") addressing the environmental, social and economic impacts associated with developing wind energy on public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.  Cumulatively, these western states have great wind power potential.  The EIS recommends adopting a Wind Energy Development Program, instituting policies and best-management procedures for wind energy right-of-way authorizations on BLM-administered land, and amending 52 BLM land-use plans to facilitate wind energy development.  BLM lands presently are host to approximately 500 MW of installed wind capacity.  But these lands could produce thousands of additional megawatts.  Not all BLM lands would be open to wind energy developers, however, as the study identified various scenic or sensitive areas that would be off-limits.  The study also considered the possibility of more limited wind energy development throughout BLM land, but proposed the pro-growth policy instead of continuing the current, more restrictive BLM Interim Wind Energy Development Policy or adopting another limited wind-energy-development alternative.  The study leaves for future consideration site-specific issues associated with individual wind energy development projects.  BLM undertook the study partly in response to the National Energy Policy issued by the White House in 2001, which asked federal agencies to take action to expedite projects to increase the production, transmission, or conservation of energy.  [UPDATE]