In response to the increasing demand for wind energy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the “Service”) and the Western Area Power Administration (“Western”) recently announced a streamlined environmental review process of wind projects in the Upper Great Plains Region (the “Region”). The Region includes Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

The Programmatic Regional Wind Energy Development Process (the “Process”) standardizes procedures for collecting information and agency consultation if developers follow best management practices, minimization measures, mitigation measures, and monitoring requirements established in the programmatic biological assessment. Complying with the programmatic biological assessment also expedites Endangered Species Act Section 7 review and avoids a separate consultation with the Service.

The Process relies on the Upper Great Plains Wind Energy Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (the “PEIS”) the Service and Western issued in 2015. The PEIS analyzes the environmental impact of wind-energy developments on sensitive areas as well as potential mitigation measures based on best practices evaluated against all components of the wind-energy project, including turbines, transformers, access roads, and operational and maintenance activities.

By David C. Levy & Garner R. Girthoffer of Baird Holm