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Solar Energy Zone Plan Focus of Public Meetings in Washington, DC, and Six Western States

WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu today announced a schedule of public meetings to gather comments on a comprehensive environmental analysis that has identified proposed ‘solar energy zones’ on public lands in the west most suitable for environmentally sound, utility-scale solar energy production.

The detailed study, known as the Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, was compiled over the past two years as part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to create a framework for developing renewable energy in the right way and in the right places.

“Dialogue with the public is critical as we lay out the next phase of President Obama’s strategy for rapid and responsible development of renewable energy on America’s public lands,” Secretary Salazar said. “This comprehensive proposal and early planning is designed to help site solar projects in the right places and reduce conflicts and delays in developing our new energy economy.”

"By developing a smart and responsible strategy to expand the use of solar power on federal lands, we can grow our domestic solar industry and create jobs in this important sector," said Secretary Chu. "Expanding our use of renewable energy sources will help put our country on the path to a prosperous, sustainable energy future."

“The lessons learned from developing this Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement and the public input obtained during this crucial comment period will help make all solar development resulting from this process ‘Smart from the Start,’” said Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey.

A Notice of Availability for the draft plan was published in the December 17, 2010 Federal Register, opening the 90-day public comment period. The Bureau of Land Management and Department of Energy will hold 13 public meetings, beginning with a February 2 session in the Nation’s Capital, to provide an overview of the document and the NEPA process and to take public comments at the following locations and times:

The meeting site in each city will open one hour prior to the official start time of the scheduled public meeting, and will be closed after all individuals who wish to speak have been heard. Transcripts of public comments will be made.

Individuals may register to speak at a meeting in advance through the Solar PEIS project website (http://solareis.anl.gov), or may register during the hour prior to the public meeting. The public may also review maps and informational posters that will be on display.  Additionally, computers for reviewing the project website or for submitting electronic comments will be available.

The Draft Solar Energy PEIS document and related maps and information are available online at the project website: http://solareis.anl.gov. Related maps are also available at http://blm.gov/td5c. Comments on the PEIS can be submitted through the project website (preferred method of submission), or written comments can be mailed to: Solar Energy Draft Programmatic EIS, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 S. Cass Avenue – EVS/240, Argonne, Illinois 60439. All comments related to the draft must be postmarked or delivered by March 17, 2011.