Badger State Solar, LLC; Notice of Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Notice of Public Meeting

CourtRural Utilities Service
Citation87 FR 11405
Published date01 March 2022
Record Number2022-04203
Federal Register, Volume 87 Issue 40 (Tuesday, March 1, 2022)
[Federal Register Volume 87, Number 40 (Tuesday, March 1, 2022)]
                [Notices]
                [Pages 11405-11407]
                From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
                [FR Doc No: 2022-04203]
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                DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
                Rural Utilities Service
                [Docket #: RUS-22-ELECTRIC-0011]
                Badger State Solar, LLC; Notice of Availability of a Draft
                Environmental Impact Statement and Notice of Public Meeting
                AGENCY: Rural Utilities Service, USDA.
                ACTION: Notice of availability of a draft environmental impact
                statement and notice of public meeting.
                -----------------------------------------------------------------------
                SUMMARY: The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) announces that a Draft
                Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a project proposed by Badger
                State Solar, LLC is available for public review and comment. RUS is
                publishing the Draft EIS to inform interested parties and the general
                public about the project proposal and to invite the public to comment
                on the scope, Proposed Action, and other issues addressed in the Draft
                EIS. The Draft EIS was prepared in accordance with the National
                Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended, Council on
                Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations for implementing the procedural
                provisions of NEPA, and RUS, Environmental Policies and Procedures and
                evaluates the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental
                effects related to providing financial assistance for the Badger State
                Solar, LLC's Alternating Current solar project (Project). Badger State
                Solar intends to request financial assistance from RUS for the Proposed
                Action and information contained in the EIS will serve as a basis for
                the decision regarding whether to provide the requested financial
                assistance. RUS has determined that its action regarding the Proposed
                Action is an undertaking subject to review under Section 106 of the
                National Historic Preservation Act and its implementing regulation,
                ``Protection of Historic Properties'' and as part of its broad
                environmental review process, RUS must take into account the effect of
                the Proposed Action on historic properties. With this notice, RUS
                invites any affected federal, state, and local agencies, Tribes, and
                other interested persons to comment on the scope, alternatives, and
                significant issues to be analyzed in depth in the EIS.
                DATES: Written comments on this Draft EIS must be received during the
                comment period, which begins March 4th and ends April 18th. A public
                meeting to solicit comments on the Draft EIS will be held in a virtual
                format on Tuesday, March 22nd, at 7 p.m. EST via Zoom. Written comments
                may be submitted via email to [email protected] or by mail
                as noted in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this notice.
                 Those wishing to attend the meeting are invited to register online
                at the virtual public meeting room website https://badgerstatesolar.consultation.ai. An email will be sent to registrants
                with information for how to access the meeting. Attendees will be able
                to provide oral and written comments during the meeting. Oral comments
                from the public will be recorded by a certified court reporter. The
                virtual public meeting room is an interactive website which will be
                available throughout the public comment period. Attendees will also be
                able to submit written comments through the virtual public meeting room
                website. All comments submitted during the public review period, oral
                or written, will become part of the public record. Before including
                your address, telephone number, email address, or other personal
                identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your
                entire comment--including your personal identifying information--may be
                made publicly available at any time. All comments will be reviewed and
                responded to in the Final EIS. For consideration in the Final EIS,
                comments must be postmarked or received online by 11:59 p.m. EST on
                Monday, April 18th.
                ADDRESSES: The Draft EIS and other Project-related information is
                available at RUS's and Badger State Solar's websites located at:
                https://www.rd.usda.gov/resources/environmental-studies/impact-statements, https://badgerstatesolar.consultation.ai, and https://www.badgerstatesolar.com.
                 In addition, hard copies of the documents are available at the
                Jefferson Public Library in Jefferson, WI, the Cambridge Community
                Library in Cambridge, WI and the Lake Mills Library in Lake Mills, WI.
                Parties wishing to be placed on the mailing list for future information
                or to receive hard or electronic copies of the EIS should also contact
                the person contact below.
                FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Questions can be directed to Peter
                Steinour, 202-961-6140, [email protected] during the open
                comment period. Comments submitted after the comment period may not be
                considered by the agency. This email address may also be used to
                request consulting party status and to inquire about additional
                information.
                 Written comments may also be submitted by mail to United States
                Department of Agriculture, Attention: Peter Steinour, Mail Stop 1570,
                Rural Utilities Service, WEP/EES, 1400 Independence Ave. SW,
                Washington, DC 20250 during the open comment period. Comments submitted
                after the comment period may not be considered by the agency. This mail
                address may also be used to request consulting party status and to
                inquire about additional information.
                 Project-related information will be available at RUS's and Badger
                State Solar's websites located at: https://www.rd.usda.gov/resources/environmental-studies/impact-statements, https://badgerstatesolar.consultation.ai, and https://www.badgerstatesolar.com.
                 Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, electronic communication is preferred
                because delivery of hard copies by mail may not be delivered in a
                timely manner.
                SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
                1. Agencies Involved and Status
                Rural Utilities Service, Lead Agency
                United States Army Corps of Engineers, Consulting Party for Section 106
                [[Page 11406]]
                United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Participating Agency
                2. Project Description and Location
                 Badger State Solar proposes to construct, install, operate, and
                maintain a 149-megawatt photovoltaic Alternating Current solar energy
                generating facility on a site in the Townships of Jefferson and
                Oakland, in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. The Proposed Action involves
                approximately 1,200 acres located on the north and south sides of U.S.
                Highway 18, approximately 2-miles west of the City of Jefferson and
                west of State Highway 89. Site land cover is predominantly agricultural
                crops and pasture, with some forest and wetland. Bader State Solar
                estimates the total project cost will be approximately $225,000,000.
                Project construction would begin in October 2022. Construction would be
                complete and the project would be expected to come online by Fall 2023.
                 Construction involves the installation on leased lands of 487,848
                single-axis tracking PV panels. The PV panels would be mounted on a
                steel racking frame. Supporting facilities include an electrical
                substation. The lease agreement allows for an operating period of 40
                years. A power purchase agreement (PPA) has been executed with
                Dairyland Power Cooperative for the entire output of the Project. The
                proposed site is near the point of interconnection to the grid at the
                American Transmission Company Jefferson substation near the
                intersection of State Trunk Highway 89 and U.S. Highway 18.
                 Construction equipment would include graders, bulldozers,
                excavators, forklifts, trailers, plows, trenchers, pile drivers, and
                directional boring rigs. Vehicles for transporting construction
                materials and components primarily would be legal load over-the road
                flatbed and box trucks. Transport would use existing regional roads,
                bridges, and intersections. Laydown areas would be established within
                the Project site. Internal site access roads would be required. The
                site would be fenced.
                3. Purpose and Need for the Action
                 The Rural Electrification Act of 1936 (REA), as amended (7 U.S.C.
                901 et seq.) authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to make rural
                electrification and telecommunication loans, and specifies eligible
                borrowers, references, purposes, terms and conditions, and security
                requirements. RUS is authorized to make loans and loan guarantees to
                finance the construction of electric distribution, transmission, and
                generation facilities, including system improvements and replacements
                required to furnish and improve electric service in rural areas, as
                well as demand-side management, electricity conservation programs, and
                on- and off-grid renewable electricity systems.
                 The Applicant intends to request financing assistance from RUS for
                the Project's 149-MW solar array in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. RUS's
                proposed federal action is to decide whether to provide financing
                assistance for the Project.
                 As part of its review process, RUS is required to complete the NEPA
                process along with other technical and financial considerations in
                processing the Applicant's application. RUS agency actions include the
                following:
                 1. Provide engineering reviews of the purpose and need, engineering
                feasibility, and cost of the Project.
                 2. Ensure that the Project meets the borrower's requirements and
                prudent utility practices.
                 3. Evaluate the financial ability of the borrower to repay its
                potential financial obligations to RUS.
                 4. Ensure that NEPA and other environmental laws and requirements
                and RUS environmental policies and procedures are satisfied prior to
                taking a federal action.
                 While RUS is authorized under REA to finance electric generation
                infrastructure in rural areas, it is the Midcontinent Independent
                System Operator, Inc. (MISO), not RUS, who is responsible for electric
                grid planning. Supporting renewable energy projects meets both RUS's
                goal to support infrastructure development in rural communities and
                USDA's support of the June 2013 Climate Action Plan, which encourages
                voluntary actions to increase energy independence.
                 The Applicant's purpose and need for the Proposed Action is to
                develop a utility-scale solar facility in Jefferson County, Wisconsin,
                to replace load demand on local utilities, including Dairyland Power,
                resulting from coal-fired power plant closures or scheduled
                decommissioning.
                4. Issues of Concern
                 In the EIS, the effects of the proposal are compared to the
                existing conditions in the affected area of the proposal. Issues of
                concern evaluated in the EIS include soils and geology, water
                resources, air quality, acoustic environment, biological resources,
                land resources, visual resources, transportation, cultural resources,
                site contamination public health and safety, socioeconomics, and
                environmental justice.
                 Badger State has submitted an Application for a Certificate of
                Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) to the Public Service
                Commission of Wisconsin (PSC). Consultations have been conducted with
                the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and an endangered
                resource review (ER) has been submitted to the agency. Consultations
                with other agencies include the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),
                Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Environmental
                Protection Agency (USEPA), and informal consultation with the U.S. Fish
                and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Badger State has consulted property
                owners, local town and county officials and staff, state elected
                representatives, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer
                Protection, and engaged the general public.
                 The USFWS concurred that the proposed project may affect, but is
                not likely to adversely affect, whooping crane. The USFWS concurred
                that Project minimization measures during constriction are expected to
                avoid or minimize disturbance to the whooping cranes and that minor
                loss of stopover and feeding habitat would not be likely to negatively
                impact the species. Additionally, the USFWS concurred that the Project
                is consistent with activities analyzed in the Programmatic Biological
                Opinion for the northern long-eared bat. Finally, the USFWS provided
                guidance on National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines and incidental
                take permits, recommendations for site selection and layout, and
                recommendations for project construction.
                5. Alternatives To Be Considered
                 Potential locations for development of the solar facility in
                Wisconsin were evaluated in an initial preliminary site review to
                identify locations where electric transmission infrastructure would be
                sufficient to connect a solar project to the power grid. The Site
                Selection Study consisted of three phases of evaluation which began
                with 18 potential sites and ended with the identification of the
                proposed site in Jefferson County as the most feasible for
                consideration. The potential impacts of the No Action Alternative and
                the Proposed Action, construction of the Badger State Solar project in
                Jefferson County, Wisconsin, are analyzed in detail.
                6. Overview of the Scoping Process
                 RUS is using its procedures for public involvement under NEPA to
                meet its responsibilities to solicit and consider
                [[Page 11407]]
                the views of the public during Section 106 review. Accordingly,
                comments submitted in response to this Notice will inform RUS decision-
                making during Section 106 review. As noted in the Federal Register
                notice announcing the intent to prepare an EIS on October 5, 2021, the
                RUS invited any interested party wishing to participate directly with
                the agency as a ``consulting party'' in Section 106 review may submit a
                written request to the RUS contact provided below. Pursuant to 36 CFR
                800.3(f)(3), RUS will consider, and provide a timely response to, any
                and all requests for consulting party status.
                 The Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare the Badger State Solar EIS
                and to hold a virtual public scoping meeting was published in the
                Federal Register on October 5, 2021, initiating the 30-day public
                scoping period. The NOI also announced a virtual public scoping meeting
                held on October 26. The NOI is provided in the Scoping Report. In
                addition to the NOI, a notice was published in the Daily Jefferson
                County Union and Watertown Daily Times newspapers published on October
                6, 7, and 8, 2021.
                 The NOI and other project information (including the Alternative
                Evaluation and Site Selection Studies) was available for review on the
                RUS and Badger State Solar websites (https://www.rd.usda.gov/resources/environmental-studies/impact-statements, https://badgerstatesolar.consultation.ai, and https://www.badgerstatesolar.com)
                and also at the following locations (Jefferson Public Library in
                Jefferson, WI; the Cambridge Community Library in Cambridge, WI and the
                Lake Mills Library in Lake Mills, WI).
                 RUS hosted the virtual public scoping meeting on October 26. RUS
                also hosted an interagency meeting on October 28. In addition to the
                public involvement process described above, Badger State Solar
                consulted with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and
                an endangered resource review has been submitted to the agency. Badger
                State Solar also consulted with the Federal Aviation Administration
                (FAA), property owners, local town and county officials and staff,
                state elected representatives, and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture
                Trade and Consumer Protection. RUS has initiated consultation with the
                Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), Natural Resources
                Conservation Service (NRCS), and informal consultation with the U.S.
                Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). RUS initiated informal consultation
                with the USFWS in a letter dated October 15, 2021. USFWS concurred with
                the finding that the Proposed Action may affect, but is not likely to
                adversely affect listed or proposed species or designated critical
                habitat in an email dated December 21, 2021. A summary of the scoping
                process and public input is provided in the Draft EIS.
                7. Decision Process
                 The Draft EIS will be available for review and comment for 45 days.
                Following the 45-day review period, RUS will prepare a Final EIS. All
                comments received on the Draft EIS will be duly considered in preparing
                the Final EIS, which is expected to be available by August 2022. The
                availability of the Final EIS for public review will be announced in
                the Federal Register and the local newspapers used in previous public
                notices. After publication of the Final EIS a Record of Decision (ROD)
                will be prepared documenting the Agency's decision regarding Badger
                State Solar's request for financial assistance. Notices announcing the
                availability of the ROD will be published in the Federal Register and
                in local newspapers.
                 Any final action by RUS related to the proposal will be subject to,
                and contingent upon, compliance with all relevant executive orders and
                federal, state, and local environmental laws and regulations in
                addition to the completion of the environmental review requirements as
                prescribed in RUS Environmental Policies and Procedures, 7 CFR part
                1970.
                Christopher A. McLean,
                Acting Administrator, Rural Utilities Service, U.S. Department of
                Agriculture.
                [FR Doc. 2022-04203 Filed 2-28-22; 8:45 am]
                BILLING CODE 3410-15-P
                

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