11:22 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

Public Comment Period Extended For Solar Energy Zones In Las Cruces And Elsewhere

Las Cruces – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced a 30-day extension of
the public comment period for the Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental
Impact Statement (Draft Solar PEIS), a joint effort with Department of
Energy. The study is a comprehensive environmental analysis that has
identified proposed "solar energy zones" on public lands in six western
states that are most suitable for environmentally sound, utility-scale
solar energy production.

The agencies had allowed 90 days for the public to comment on the draft
plan. Because of numerous requests, the agencies are extending the comment
period by 30 days beyond March 17, the original closing date.

The comment period will now run until April 16, 2011. No additional public
meetings will be held during the extended public comment period.

The Draft Solar PEIS assessed the environmental, social, and economic
impacts associated with solar energy development on lands managed by the
BLM in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

Under the study's Preferred Alternative, the BLM would establish a new
Solar Energy Program that would standardize and streamline the
authorization process. The plan would also establish mandatory design
features for solar energy development on BLM-managed lands.

The BLM would also establish Solar Energy Zones (SEZ's) within the lands
available for solar development right-of-way applications. These are areas
that have been identified as most appropriate for development, containing
the highest solar energy potential and fewest environmental and resource
conflicts. The proposed SEZ's would provide directed, landscape-scale
planning for future solar projects and allow for a more efficient
permitting and siting process.

The preferred method of commenting on the Draft Solar PEIS is by written
submissions using the online form available at
Comments can also be mailed to: Solar Energy Draft Programmatic EIS,
Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 S. Cass Avenue - EVS/240, Argonne,
Illinois 60439.

The BLM manages more land - over 245 million acres - than any other Federal
agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is
primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The Bureau, with
a budget of about $1 billion, also administers 700 million acres of
sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's multiple-use
mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for
the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau
accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation,
livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by
conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public