Wednesday, March 28, 2012

California Governor's Office Silences Public Employees

Germany added over 5,000 megawatts of rooftop solar in one year without sacrificing any natural treasures.  Sacramento has spent nearly two years planning to destroy pristine desert for a 465 megawatt wind energy project.  And apparently they had to silence the stewards of our lands in order to get it done.

California Governor Jerry Brown's office may have ordered state employees to suppress concerns about the environmental damage of a wind energy project, according to an East County Magazine and 10 News investigative report.  Stewards of California's Anza-Borrego Desert State Park planned to submit comments on the draft environmental impact statement for the Ocotillo Express wind energy project, but the Governor's Office reportedly called them and ordered them not to submit comments.  Biologists and conservationists have raised concerns that the project, which the Pattern Energy Group will build on nearly 20 square miles of public land, threatens habitat for raptors, bats, Western Burrowing Owls, and the endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep.  Opponents of this industrial project have noted that rooftop solar projects, or larger clean energy projects on already-disturbed lands would be a more sustainable solution to climate change than the destruction of ecologically intact desert wildlands.

This Google Earth image shows the proposed layout of the Ocotillo Express wind energy project.
For comparison, the footprint of the Ocotillo Express wind energy project is transposed on an image of the city of San Diego, to show the scale of the massive facility.
The Ocotillo Express wind energy project would involve 155 wind turbines, standing nearly 450 feet tall.  For comparison, the Statue of Liberty, from ground to torch, is only 305 feet tall.  The 20 square mile area impacted by these turbines would engulf most of the city of San Diego.

The Governor's Office denies the accusations, but last year Governor Brown did say that "some kind of opposition you have to crush," referring to his hard line against citizens expressing concern over industrial facilities like the project proposed by Pattern Energy Group.  Is this what the environmental community expects from the renewable energy industry? This is the same "drill, baby, drill" attitude that has led us to unnecessary destruction with fossil fuels. Many wind and solar energy companies show little regard for the ecosystems they purport to save from climate change, exposing the fact that the bottom line will always be profit.

We need to change our energy model from the foundation -- increase energy efficiency and promote a distributed energy model that spares our wildlands for future generations.  Germany, in just one year, added over 230,000 rooftop solar panels, amounting to over 5,000 megawatts of clean energy. That's enough to replace a few fossil fuel plants.  And yet, here we are, bulldozing pristine desert in the name of "green" energy.  Somehow corporate interests redefined "green" to earn a few extra bucks.

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