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Upper Great Plains Wind Energy Programmatic EIS
Upper Great Plains Wind Energy Programmatic EIS
Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A list of frequently asked questions about the Upper Great Plains Wind Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS).

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about the Upper Great Plains Wind Energy PEIS. Click a question below to see the answer.

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What is an EIS?

"EIS" is the abbreviation for environmental impact statement, a document prepared to describe the effects of proposed activities on the environment. "Environment," in this case, is defined as the natural and physical environment and the relationship of people with that environment. This means that the "environment" considered in an EIS includes land; water; air; structures; living organisms; environmental values at the site; and social, cultural, and economic factors.

An "impact" is a change or consequence that results from an activity. Impacts can be positive or negative, or both. An EIS describes impacts, as well as ways to "mitigate" impacts. To "mitigate" means to lessen or remove adverse impacts.

Therefore, an EIS is a document that describes the impacts on the environment as a result of a proposed action. It also describes impacts of alternatives, as well as plans to mitigate the impacts.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to prepare EISs for major federal actions with the potential for significant impact on the quality of the human environment.

For more information on the Upper Great Plains Wind Programmatic EIS, visit About the PEIS.

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What is a Programmatic EIS?

A Programmatic EIS (PEIS) evaluates the environmental impacts of broad agency actions, such as the development of programs or the setting of national policies. A PEIS usually does not evaluate specific project proposals; these are usually deferred to project-specific environmental impact assessments (e.g., EISs) through a process called tiering.

For more information on the Upper Great Plains Wind Programmatic EIS, visit About the Upper Great Plains Wind PEIS.

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Why is the Upper Great Plains Wind Programmatic EIS Needed?

The PEIS was prepared to support Western Area Power Administration's (Western's) proposed comprehensive region-wide environmental program for wind-energy project interconnections. The PEIS analyzed environmental impacts resulting from development of wind energy projects, and the effectiveness of mitigation measures, standard construction practices, and best management practices in reducing potential impacts. Impacts and mitigation were analyzed for each environmental resource, and all aspects of wind energy projects were addressed, including construction and installation of:

  • turbines;
  • transformers;
  • collector lines;
  • access roads; and
  • substations;
as well as operation and maintenance of these facilities.

Specifically, the PEIS and program:
  1. Define areas with a high potential for wind-energy development near UGP Region's transmission system in anticipation of future wind-generation interconnection requests.

  2. Define natural and human environment resources in areas with high wind-energy development potential, including Native American lands, to support analyses of the environmental impacts and development of wind-energy resources.

  3. Develop and present mitigation measures for reducing wind-energy development impacts on the natural and human environment for use by interconnection applicants in addressing the environmental impacts of their projects.

  4. Include a completed programmatic Endangered Species Act (ESA) section 7 consultation for listed and proposed threatened and endangered species within the study area boundaries established for the Programmatic EIS.

  5. Identify significant direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts from wind-energy developments and associated transmission system enhancements to support the impact analysis in the Programmatic EIS.

  6. Identify laws, regulations, and policies that have potential to affect wind-energy resource development.

  7. Provide guidance for interconnection applicants that includes:
    • information about natural resources within areas with a high potential for wind development;
    • requirements for subsequent site-specific environmental reviews; and
    • appropriate measures to minimize adverse environmental impacts related to wind projects and associated transmission system enhancements.

As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) moves forward in accommodating wind-energy development on easements (through easement exchange), understanding the individual and cumulative impacts to wildlife habitat and wildlife is critical. It is essential that the Service consider the cumulative effects of the expansion of wind generation on wildlife, and important to understand which habitats should be avoided.

For more information, visit Why the PEIS Is Needed.

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What is the scope of the analysis in the Upper Great Plains Wind Energy PEIS?

The proposed action in this PEIS is for the Agencies to develop and implement agency-specific approaches to facilitate environmentally responsible wind energy development by establishing environmental evaluation procedures and mitigation strategies related to wind energy development in six states (Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota). These states are within Western's Upper Great Plains Customer Service Region and the Service's Region 3 and Region 6.

For more information, visit What's In the Upper Great Plains Wind Programmatic EIS.

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Which lands are included in the scope of the PEIS?

The PEIS analyzed potential impacts of wind energy development in Western's Upper Great Plains Customer Service Region and on the Service's grasslands and wetland easements within the same area. The area includes all or portions of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Maps of the wind energy resources included in the study area are available.

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What alternatives are analyzed in the Upper Great Plains Wind Energy PEIS?

Four alternatives were considered in the PEIS:

  • a no action alternative (existing program wherein new proposals are considered on an ad-hoc basis without standard mitigation or best management practices);

  • an alternative under which both agencies would implement standardized processes for evaluating the environmental effects of wind energy projects and which identifies best management practices and mitigation measures to be applied where specific resource conditions occur;

  • a hybrid alternative that consists of Western's proposed action for approving wind projects, but would not allow further wind development on any of the Service's easements; and
  • an alternative under which no additional BMPs or mitigation measures would be requested beyond those stipulated under established regulatory requirements.

For more information, visit What's in the Upper Great Plains Wind Energy PEIS.

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What impacts and issues are addressed in the PEIS?

The PEIS evaluates direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts to:

  • ecological resources;
  • visual resources;
  • noise;
  • land use;
  • cultural resources;
  • air quality;
  • outdoor recreation;
  • water resources;
  • soils and geology;
  • environmental justice; and
  • socioeconomics.

For more information, visit What's in the Upper Great Plains Wind Energy PEIS.

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Where are copies of the Final PEIS available?

The Final PEIS is viewable, printable and downloadable in electronic form (PDF) on this website on the Documents page. In addition, media containing electronic versions of the Final PEIS are available on request.

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Are comments on the Draft PEIS available for public examination?

The public comment period for the Draft PEIS is closed. The public comment period began March 22, 2013, and closed May 21, 2013. Comments on the Draft PEIS were accepted at public meetings, electronically through this website, and by mail. Comments are available in Appendix A of the Final PEIS.

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Has a Final Record of Decision been issued?

The Record of Decision was published in the Federal Register on August 26, 2015.

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How will the public be involved with wind development projects after the PEIS is completed?

The public can become involved directly with individual development projects as they undergo site-specific environmental analyses. Separate National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) evaluations of future proposed projects will be produced and will provide opportunities for public involvement as required by NEPA.

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Didn't see your question here?

Contact us at plainswindeis@anl.gov. We'll do our best to answer your question.