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Obama Administration Streamlines Solar Projects

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Obama Administration Streamlines Solar Projects

Obama Administration Streamlines Solar Projects

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The federal government is making it easier to develop large-scale solar projects on public land. The Obama Administration approved 17 swaths of land across the West that it says has the highest power-generating potential and the fewest environmental impacts.

The release of this week's environmental impact statement comes after a two-year study involving government regulators, environmental groups and utilities. Under the plan, solar developers seeking to build in pre-approved zones will go through a streamlined environmental permit process. The Energy Department's David Danielson told reporters on a teleconference Tuesday the developers would also be offered reduced lease payments.

"By making it cheaper and easier for U.S. firms to deploy innovative solar project the process announced today will help boost economic competitiveness, drive investment and job creation and improve our energy security," Danielson said.

The zones cover a total of 285,000 acres. More than twice that had been considered but proximity to transmission lines became a factor. The 17 areas include five sites in Nevada, four in Colorado, three in Utah, two each in California and Arizona, and one in New Mexico.

The public has 30 days to comment, after which the Interior Department can adopt the plan.

Laurel Morales was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2011 to 2020.