Draft Upper Great Plains Wind Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) released
On March 22, 2013, the Western Area Power Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as joint lead agencies, released for public review the draft Upper Great Plains Wind Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (UGP Wind Energy PEIS) prepared by Argonne’s EVS Division. The public comment period closes on May 21, 2013.
In general, a PEIS evaluates the environmental impacts of broad agency actions, such as program development or national policy establishment. The objective of the UGP Wind Energy PEIS is to identify generic environmental impacts associated with wind energy development and associated transmission systems; identify mitigation strategies, standard construction practices, and best management practices to reduce potential impacts; and establish comprehensive environmental review procedures for evaluating future wind energy proposals. Implementation of agency-wide review procedures and mitigation strategies would streamline project-specific environmental analyses and decision making for specific projects.
The UGP Wind Energy PEIS specifically considers the implementation of standardized environmental review requirements for wind energy projects requesting interconnection to transmission systems operated by Western in its Upper Great Plains Customer Service Region (UGP Region) or requesting placement of wind energy structures on grassland and wetland easements managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service in the same area. The UGP Region includes all or parts of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota, encompassing some areas of the United States with the highest potential for wind energy development.
The UGP Wind Energy PEIS identifies the environmental information that Western and the Fish and Wildlife Service will be considering during environmental reviews, along with a standard set of evaluation procedures, best management practices, and mitigation measures that developers would be expected to apply to identify the resources at risk from a particular project and to limit or reduce the potential for environmental impacts to those resources.
In considering wind energy development on its easements, the Fish and Wildlife Service must evaluate cumulative effects on wildlife, habitats that should be avoided, and actions that can be implemented to reduce the wildlife impacts, if development should occur. The two lead agencies have also been working to identify areas or habitats that developers should avoid and additional measures to be implemented during development and operations to avoid adverse effects on federally listed threatened and endangered species. The goal is to provide additional certainty to developers and regulators regarding the ability of specific project plans to achieve compliance with the Endangered Species Act.