Governor Brown's Pledge to Crush Democracy

California Governor Jerry Brown yesterday told the renewable energy industry he would "crush" citizen opposition to massive solar facilities on pristine wild lands.  When a politician publicly vows to "crush" citizen opposition to the energy industry you have to wonder who they work for.  Governor Brown should not brush off public outrage at plans to industrialize hundreds of square miles of pristine desert as the "kind of opposition you have to crush." America wants more renewable energy, but we do not need to abandon democratic principles in order to achieve that goal.

These projects affect every community and ratepayer in California because they will wipe out treasured open spaces and increase electricity costs unnecessarily.   So it's disheartening that Brown belittled the voice of voters, lamenting the fact that he had to "talk a little bit," with concerned citizens, but saying "at the end of the day you have to move forward, and California needs to move forward with our renewable energy."  What these citizens are asking for is not a halt to all renewable energy; they want renewable energy where it makes sense, such as on already-disturbed lands or rooftops.  Ironically, Brown spoke these words at a conference for distributed generation, which involves installing solar panels on rooftops and in urban spaces--a more effective and less destructive way to meet our renewable energy goals.

So what kind of opposition is Governor Brown crushing?  Perhaps the Native Americans that protested his backing of the 10 square-mile Blythe Solar power project.   Bulldozers had already barreled through sacred ceremonial sites before Governor Brown flew in to attend the official groundbreaking ceremony for the solar site.  Native Americans and other concerned citizens were there to protest, but Governor Brown did not give them the time of day as he gladly stood next to executives of the German firm Solar Millennium, some of whom are under investigation in Germany for embezzlement
Native Americans protesting the destruction of a sacred site by Solar Millennium.  Not long after, Governor Brown visited the site for the official groundbreaking, rubbing elbows with executives of a scandal-plagued company receiving billions of taxpayer-backed loans and grants. Photo by Basin and Range Watch.
Or is Governor Brown talking about opposition to the Ivanpah Solar power project? Never mind that the Nature Conservancy identified the Ivanpah Valley as "biologically core" to the health of California's desert ecosystems, and biologists have expressed alarm at the potential destruction of a genetically significant desert tortoise population.  What about the Quechan Tribe's opposition to the Imperial Valley Solar project.  Does Governor Brown disagree with the Federal judge who put put the project on hold because the government ignored concerns that the project would destroy Native American burial sites?

What about concerns that all of these solar facilities in the middle of the desert require new or upgraded transmission lines that will cost billions of dollars?  All of those costs will be passed along to electricity customers.
Solar panels in our urban spaces make a lot more sense than placing them in the middle of our beautiful deserts. Photo by Basin and Range Watch.
Blanketing our wild lands with steel and mirrors is not the vision most Americans would appreciate.  That is evidenced by the thousands of comments that the Department of Interior received in response to plans to fast-track solar facilities on pristine public land.  It's evidenced by the nearly 30,000 comments Washington received regarding the enormous toll wind energy turbines have on bird populations.

Let's get serious about distributed generation and abandon the old energy paradigm of bulldozers and transmission towers.

Governor Brown with executives from Solar Millennium during the Blythe groundbreaking ceremony. Solar Millennium will receive 2.1 billion dollars in taxpayer-backed loans and millions of dollars in cash grants to build the massive facility.  Governor Brown avoided Native American protestors during the ceremony, and did not speak about the sacred sites already disturbed during initial construction activities. Photo by Tammy Heilemann, Office of Communications

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