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Showing posts from February, 2012

A contrast of energy choices

Congratulations to Solar Mosaic and Navajo Nation artist Shonto Begay for taking a step into a clean energy future that does not involve the destruction of wildlands.  Solar Mosaic successfully "crowd-funded" enough money to install solar panels on the home of Shonto Begay, who lives near the Peadbody Coal Mine in Arizona.  Shonto's new solar panels will represent democratic energy -- clean and local -- generated at the point of use.  No need for massive new power plants on desert habitat, or expensive transmission lines across beautiful wildlands.  The Peabody Coal Mine  -- like any other large corporate power plant that disrespects nature -- is a destructive relic of an old energy model.

You can read more about Solar Mosaic's success here, and check out Shonto's art here.

Put a Halt to Illegal Dumping

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Illegal dumping is a problem on desert lands, especially those close to the urban areas throughout the southwest.  Growing up in the western Mojave, I know the areas around the Victor Valley and Antelope Valley have dealt with illegal dumping for a while.  Instead of taking trash to a landfill or other materials to proper recycling centers, a small minority of people would rather trash our open space, often taking a pick-up full of trash a half-mile or so down a dirt road to discard their waste in the desert, showing complete disrespect for the desert and their neighbors.  You can report illegal dumping to county authorities (Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, or Kern County.)  You can also contact municipal code enforcement offices that might have jurisdiction over parcels of land within city limits, such as this site for Apple Valley Code Enforcement.

There are consequences for those who get caught.  In addition to being cited and fined, in some towns you can have your vehicl…

Sierra Club Starts Local Clean Energy Campaign in Southern California

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The Sierra Club initiated a  Local Clean Energy Campaign to encourage public policies that promote investment in distributed generation and energy efficiency programs, which is seen as a positive sign by activists seeking a clean energy future that does not involve the destruction of ecologically intact wildlands for large-scale solar and wind projects.  The nascent effort is currently focusing on coalition building, but intends to reduce barriers to distributed generation and support the Governor of California's goal to build 12,000 megawatts of local renewable energy.  The Sierra Club's campaign adds to a growing chorus of groups and citizens seeking policies that have successfully ramped up local clean energy installations quickly in other countries, such as Germany.

The Local Clean Energy Campaign will advocate for feed-in-tariffs and net metering that fairly compensate rooftop solar owners for the energy they feed back into the grid.  Net-metering is currently capped at 5…

Kingston Range

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Mojave yucca and Creosote bush silhouetted against a backdrop of early dawn light and the Kingston Range in northern Mojave Desert.

Saving Ivanpah

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The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in 2011 recommended that no further large-scale development be permitted in the Ivanpah Valley, warning that destroying more desert habitat in the area could sever or impair a critical linkage between desert tortoise populations, according to its Biological Opinion.  According to the FWS:
If development in the Ivanpah Valley severed population connectivity, it would essentially isolate the Eldorado Valley population from the rest of the recovery unit.We recommend that the Bureau amend the necessary land use plans to prohibit large- scale development (e.g., solar energy facilities, wind development, etc.) within all remaining portions of the Ivanpah Valley to reduce fragmentation within the critical linkage between the Ivanpah Critical Habitat Unit and the El Dorado Critical Habitat Unit.This recommendation was issued after the Department of Interior approved two large solar projects (ISEGS and Silver State North) and a high-speed rail line for con…

Beyond the Reid Gardner Coal Plant

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Leaving Las Vegas is easy when you love the Mojave.  Once you escape the maze of billboards, glitzy hotels, and miles of stucco-clad houses, you'll cross some wide open desert that will liberate you from an otherwise hurried existence.  As the city guzzles water and cranks up massive air conditioners, the desert's incredible array of life -- tortoises, kit foxes, jackrabbits, owls, hawks, eagles, Creosote,  Mojave yucca, blackbrush, white bursage, and countless wildflower species -- have endured the test of time.

You have to appreciate the small stuff in the desert.  The signs of life that betray the ignorant notion that this place is a wasteland.  Narrow pathways well worn into the desert ground by rodents scurrying to and from shrubs and burrows.  A wren's nest deep within the spiny arms of a cholla cactus.  A loggerhead shrike perched on a Mojave yucca that may not be much taller than a human but probably more than 300 years old.  All of these forming an intricate web o…

Center for American Progress Endorses Destruction of Public Lands; Wilderness Society Distributes Piece in Social Media

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The Wilderness Society appears to support the destruction of public lands, as long as the diesel-guzzling bulldozers are clearing the way for a shiny new solar or wind energy facility.  That is the bottom line of a blog piece written by the Center for American Progress writers Jessica Goad and Joe Romm--and posted by the Wilderness Society on its facebook and twitter accounts--in which Center for American Progress also suggests that Americans do not cherish their desert open spaces. The Wilderness Society's willingness to disseminate the blog piece without raising concerns for the content suggest they find merit in the article.

The Center for American Progress is protesting an article by the Los Angeles Times that sheds light on the destruction of the Ivanpah Valley by BrightSource Energy for its 5.6 square mile solar facility.  The LA Times also draws attention to a land rush by solar developers proposing to destroy hundreds of square miles of desert wildlands throughout Amer…

Pressure Mounts on First Solar Projects as Ivanpah Recognized As Crucial Tortoise Habitat

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More conservation groups have expressed support for preserving desert wildlands in the Ivanpah Valley, an early warning signal that First Solar should back away from their ill-sited solar projects there.  Located in the northeastern Mojave Desert and spanning the California/Nevada border, the Ivanpah Valley hosts a robust population of desert tortoises and provides a critical wildlife corridor for this species whose population has declined nearly 90% since the 1980s.  Biological surveys and US Fish and Wildlife Service findings increasingly indicate that First Solar is proposing to build in one of the most ecologically sensitive areas of the Mojave Desert, and threatens a level of damage that it cannot buy its way out of with "mitigation" as it did with its other projects.

Basin and Range Watch and a coalition of other desert conservation groups submitted a petition to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on 23 October asking that much of the Ivanpah Valley be designated as an…