Washington DC [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management Rebecca Watson announced the completion and availability of a study that addresses the environmental, social and economic impacts associated with the development of wind energy on public lands. In essence, BLM has laid the environmental groundwork to speed up the permitting of wind energy in the 11 western public-land states.Watson noted that the study, The Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on Wind Energy Development on BLM-Administered Lands in the Western United States, focuses on public land administered by BLM in 11 western states, excluding Alaska. “Our quality of life and economic security are dependent on a stable and abundant supply of affordable energy,” Watson said. “Encouraging the production and development of renewable energy sources, including wind energy, on our public lands is a way to help meet the energy needs of the nation, as well as those of growing communities in the West.” The study analyzes three alternatives for managing wind energy development on BLM- administered lands: 1) the proposed action, which would implement a Wind Energy Development Program, establish policies and best-management practices for wind energy right-of-way authorizations, and amend 52 BLM land-use plans; 2) the no-action alternative, which would allow continued wind energy development under the terms and conditions of the BLM Interim Wind Energy Development Policy, and 3) a limited-wind-energy-development alternative, which would allow wind-energy development only in selected locations. “This EIS proposes a consistent, agency-wide approach to wind energy permitting that will support and expedite site-specific analysis of individual wind projects,” Watson said. “What this means in plain English is that BLM has laid the environmental groundwork to speed up the permitting of wind energy in the 11 western public-land states. It should pave the way for development of more than 3200 MW of wind energy on public lands in 11 western states. That’s enough energy to power almost one million homes.” The EIS examines issues common to most wind energy development projects, adopts best- management practices to minimize impacts and amends land-use plans to facilitate wind development. Along with the proposed land-use plan amendments, the Final Programmatic EIS also includes the identification of specific areas where wind energy development would not be allowed. The proposed land-use plan amendments are designed to facilitate preparation and consideration of potential wind energy development right-of-way applications on BLM-administered lands, but not to eliminate the need for site-specific analysis of individual development proposals. The Final Programmatic EIS comes in response to recommendations set forth in the president’s National Energy Policy, which encourages the development of renewable energy resources on public lands. Work on the EIS began in October 2003 and included extensive community meetings in the West and opportunities for public comment. The document addresses wind- energy development on BLM-administered lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The Final Programmatic EIS is posted on the Web (see link below) and will be published in the Federal Register.