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Showing posts from December, 2013

BrightSource Energy Design Too Risky for Wildlife

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BrightSource Energy's plans to build the Palen Solar power project in the California desert were cast in doubt last week when the California Energy Commission (CEC) proposed to deny a permit for the facility because of its impacts on wildlife.  The denial could spell doom for BrightSource Energy, which has invested heavily in a solar power plant design that has become notorious for its troubling impacts on wildlife -  destroying rare plants and habitat for terrestrial wildlife, and burning birds to death.
BrightSource's Palen project would involve thousands of mirrors spread out over nearly 5.9 square miles to focus the sun's energy to heat boilers on the top of two towers - each over 750 feet tall.  The focused energy would create super-heated pockets of air; the super-heated air created at the company's Ivanpah Solar project in the Mojave Desert has already killed dozens of birds. BrightSource paid experts and lawyers to urge the CEC to approve its Palen Solar pro…

BLM Could Leave Key New Mexico Wildlands Open to Energy Development

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published the draft environmental review for a plan that determines how it will manage nearly 2.8 million acres of public lands in three large counties in southern New Mexico, including the beautiful Otero Mesa grasslands.  Unfortunately, the BLM's preferred alternative would leave much of the region vulnerable to oil and natural gas drilling, including areas identified by conservation groups as needing protection.  According to the Wilderness Society:
"The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance has identified more than 700,000 acres of lands with wilderness characteristics in the tri-county area; yet BLM only found 11,917 acres as meeting the criteria to be considered lands with wilderness characteristics and only proposed to protect 803 acres." -the Wilderness SocietyIndecision on Oil and Gas Prompts Uncertainty
Perhaps most concerning is the fact that the BLM's land use plan would defer a decision on how to handle oil and gas drilling o…

Department of Interior Favors Industry Over Wildlife in New Rule

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The Department of Interior finalized a new rule extending permits for wind energy facilities to kill bald and golden eagles in a move that could encourage even more wind energy development in eagle habitat.   Interior's issuance of the new rule caps a public review process that started last year, and extends eagle "take" permits -- permission to kill or harass protected bald and golden eagles -- from 5 years to 30 years.  The rule provides the wind industry with assurances it needs to finance and build sprawling energy projects in areas where eagle mortality is more likely, even though efforts to offset eagle losses are still experimental or speculative.  The American Bird Conservancy, Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, and others have expressed concern about Interior's decision.

The final rule includes some concessions to conservation groups, such as requiring wind companies to report the mortality rates of eagles at new project sites,  but wind facilities are…

California Does Not Need More Fossil Fuels

The California Public Utilities Commission is considerng whether to offset the loss of the failed San Onofre nuclear power plant with new natural gas power plants.  San Onofre's twin reactors generated over 2,250 megawatts of electricity.  We will need to take affirmative steps to offset the loss of that generating capacity, but we should find the most sustainable way to fill this gap without creating more environmental problems. 

As the Sierra Club notes, replacing San Onofre with natural gas plants is unnecessary because energy forecasts for California indicate that roughly half of San Onofre's generating capacity will be offset with energy efficiency gains; we can fill the rest of the gap with improvements in transmission or added rooftop solar capacity in the Los Angeles basin.  Consider that solar panels on California rooftops already generate over 1,880 megawatts of  clean energy.  Instead of wasting ratepayer money on new fossil fuel plants that will pollute our commu…