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Showing posts with the label Defenders

Federal District Court to Hear Case on Ivanpah Valley on Monday

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Defenders of Wildlife on Monday will argue before the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California that First Solar should not be allowed to begin construction of the Silver State South and Stateline Solar projects in the Ivanpah Valley this spring because of the irreparable harm the projects would incur on critical desert tortoise habitat.  The Department of Interior permitted the projects even though biologists - including at the Fish and Wildlife Service - have argued that no additional large-scale development should take place in the Ivanpah Valley because it could impair a critical habitat linkage for the threatened desert tortoise.

The Department of Interior, California Energy Commission, and First Solar have filed notices in opposition to Defenders of Wildlife, claiming that the projects are critical components of Federal and State renewable energy programs, but failing to justify why these two projects must be built on such important wildlife habitat.  First Solar …

Defenders of Wildlife Steps in to Protect Critical Tortoise Habitat

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Defenders of Wildlife filed a legal challenge this week against the Department of Interior's decision to permit two large solar projects along the California-Nevada border because each would significantly impair a critical desert tortoise habitat linkage.  The challenge calls out the Department of Interior's own doublespeak with respect to the need for "responsible development of renewable energy on our public lands."  The solar projects in question - First Solar's Stateline and Silver State South - would destroy a total of over 6.3 square miles of habitat in the Ivanpah Valley; this area not only provides genetic connectivity across the tortoise's range, but research also shows the valley will "retain the precipitation and temperature levels necessary to sustain the species" through anticipated impacts of climate change.  First Solar refused to consider relocating the projects to already-disturbed lands, and the Department of Interior decided to pe…

Can Ivanpah Be Saved?

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The Department of Interior issued a Record of Decision this week approving two more massive solar projects in the Ivanpah Valley.  With this approval, First Solar could begin construction of the Silver State South and Stateline Solar projects as soon as this spring, even though the Fish and Wildlife Service has expressed concern that the projects could destroy a key habitat linkage for the imperiled desert tortoise.  Conservation groups have asked Interior and First Solar to consider alternative locations for the project, and Defenders of Wildlife in November warned that it may challenge Interior's review of the projects under the Endangered Species Act.

There is no good reason why these projects must be built in Ivanpah, but plenty of reasons why they should be built elsewhere.  First Solar picked sites close to transmission lines and secured a power purchase agreement with utility companies without consideration of how these choices might impact our desert wildlands and wildlife,…

Conservation Groups Warn Against Approval of Ivanpah Projects

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Defenders of Wildlife this month warned the Department of Interior that its pending approval of two large-scale solar projects in the Ivanpah Valley would destroy irreplaceable desert habitat and degrade an important wildlife linkage, despite smarter alternatives.  In a separate letter, the Nature Conservancy noted that Interior's approval of the projects would ignore science-based guidance on how to manage public lands and minimize impacts of energy projects.

The two solar projects - First Solar's Silver State South and Sateline projects - would be built on the California-Nevada border on a narrow corridor of habitat that connects different populations of the beleaguered desert tortoise.  A loss or degradation of this habitat linkage would make it more difficult for the desert tortoise to recover from the downward spiral it has experienced over the last half century, and erode its resilience as it faces a host of human threats, including climate change.  Conservationists argu…

Another Golden Eagle Killed by Industry

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Basin and Range Watch learned from the Bureau of Land Management that another golden eagle was killed, this time at the Spring Valley Wind project built in Nevada's Great Basin desert.  The project -- owned by Pattern Energy -- was built on remote desert wildlands despite concerns from environmental organizations that it could jeopardize a large population of Mexican free-tailed bats.  Spring Valley Wind began operations last year. The wind project is only permitted to kill one eagle, and another eagle death could require the project to curtail operations, although enforcement and compliance are doubtful.

The golden eagle death in Nevada occurs less than two months after NextEra's North Sky River wind project in California killed its first golden eagle, only weeks after beginning operations in the Tehachapi Mountains.  The North Sky River wind project industrialized potential California condor habitat, and was built despite objections from environmental groups (Defenders of Wi…

BLM Urged to Preserve Ivanpah Linkage

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In a rather strong and thorough letter, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in November asked the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to reject First Solar's Silver State South solar project in the Ivanpah Valley, reiterating FWS concerns that the project will reduce or eliminate a critical linkage for the threatened desert tortoise.  FWS' letter preceded a joint letter submitted in December by eight different environmental groups asking the BLM to suspend approval of any additional projects in the Ivanpah Valley until a conservation plan is in place, indicating that BLM decisions impacting the Ivanpah Valley so far have underestimated its biological importance.
FWS Comments on Silver State South Solar

FWS's asks the BLM to work with the applicant to modify the layout of the project if it is not possible to reject the project altogether, suggesting the alternatives already analyzed by BLM do not offer a sufficiently wide habitat linkage. Human development to the west, and t…

Conservation Groups Weigh in on Destructive BrightSource Projects

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The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and NRDC have expressed concerns about BrightSource Energy's choice of project sites on desert habitat, recommending that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reject power purchase agreements (PPA) between BrightSource and Southern California Edison (SCE), according to letters filed with CPUC.  The CPUC was already looking into concerns that BrightSource's projects would sell electricity to the utility company at highly uncompetitive prices when compared to other renewable energy options. BrightSource Energy, which is responsible for displacing or killing hundreds of desert tortoises for its Ivanpah Solar project in the northeastern Mojave Desert, may have trouble financing and building two of its projects if CPUC rejects the PPAs.

Rio Mesa Solar Project Would Batter, Blind and Burn Birds The Sierra Club's submission to the CPUC expressed concern that BrightSource Energy's proposal to build  the massive Rio Mesa solar…

Desert Solar Policy Codifies Status Quo

The Department of Interior today released the final version of a policy that will smooth the way for industrial-scale solar energy development on public lands throughout America's southwestern deserts.   Even though Interior weakened environmental protections seen in earlier drafts, and crafted the policy to meet industry demands--essentially putting on paper what is already Interior's de facto policy of allowing solar companies to bulldoze wherever they please--several national environmental groups still applauded the announcement, including the Sierra Club, NRDC, the Wilderness Society, and the national Audubon Society.  Their statements of support for the policy probably represent efforts to put positive spin on what is ultimately an environmental catastrophe for the renewable energy industry and our public lands.

Corporate Giveaway of Public Lands The final policy--which is expected to be signed by Secretary Salazar later this year--designates nearly 30,000 square miles of d…

Renewable Energy Industry Ignoring National Environmental Groups

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Solar and wind energy companies are seeing their "green" image slip away as they stake claim to large swaths of sensitive wildlife habitat in America's southwest, and balk at conservation groups calling for smarter siting decisions.  Although many in the grassroots conservation community wish the national environmental groups would be more vocal and consistent in their stand on responsible renewable energy standards, even the handful of examples where national groups do demand that renewable energy projects reduce impacts on our ecosystems, the renewable energy industry and even policymakers have resisted.

Calico Solar
The Calico Solar power project is an example of the renewable energy industry watching their "green" image melt away.  National environmental groups gave solar companies and the Federal government a three year opportunity to clean up their act and find a better place to build a 7 square mile solar project.  Neither listened, and now the Sierra C…

Environmentalism for the 1%

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The departure of the Sierra Club's chairman -- Carl Pope -- comes during a dark moment for environmentalism.  The vanguards of the green movement have compromised their core conservation ethic, forging alliances with corporations and ignoring the grassroots in order to make way for an unchecked renewable energy industry that is more intent on destroying public lands than saving them.

A recent Los Angeles Times article highlights how Pope may be a casualty of this attempt to gain influence in Washington and Wall Street, but his approach has been practiced by other national environmental groups,  including the Wilderness Society, NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife.  These groups have desperately sought acceptance among business and political elites, painting themselves as job creators by selling out America's landscapes to big wind and solar firms, and then bragging about the jobs they have supported.  What have they gained? Loss of respect among th…

BLM Begins Supplemental Environmental Review for Calico Solar

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Despite opposition from the BNSF railroad, conservation groups, and countless concerned citizens, K Road Solar is still intent on building the Calico Solar power project in the central Mojave Desert.  But first they will need to complete a supplemental environmental impact analysis.  An environmental impact statement was actually completed last year and the project approved, but the project plans were sold to K Road Solar, which then modified them enough to warrant additional impact analysis.

Whether or not the Department of Interior approves the project will be a test for its supposed commitment to more judicious siting of large renewable energy projects on public lands.  Three groups -- Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the NRDC -- sent a notice to Interior in August warning against approving the project and pointing out deficiencies in last year's environmental review.  The groups argue that the project could be sited on lands nearby that are already-disturbed for agricul…

Sierra Club Steadfast Against Destructive Calico Solar

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The Sierra Club asked the California Energy Commission (CEC) to halt its review of K Road Sun's revised proposal to build the Calico Solar power project, but the CEC dismissed the Club's challenge.  The project will destroy nearly 7 square miles of pristine desert on public land, and displace or kill many rare plant and wildlife species.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the CEC permitted the Calico Solar power project under a different owner last year, even though that company did not even have the financial or technical ability to build the project.  The new company, K Road Sun, is also of dubious pedigree, and is rushing the CEC for approval so that it can receive loans and grants from the taxpayer.
The Sierra Club told the The Sun newspaper:
"The Sierra Club is very much in favor of renewable energy but this is a bad location ...," adding that the area is "important habitat for the desert tortoise and the big horn sheep." The Sierra Club is not alone …

Are Environmental Groups Acquiescing to First Solar's Desert Sunlight Project?

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The Department of Interior last month released the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for First Solar Inc's Desert Sunlight solar power project.  After a final public review of the EIS, the Department of Interior will decide whether or not to grant approval to the project.  According to the EIS, it appears that Washington will give the green light and even use taxpayers' money to finance First Solar's plans to destroy 4,176 acres (nearly 6.5 square miles) of desert habitat, including some desert tortoise critical habitat.  Although national environmental groups have been following these massive solar projects closely, they have been relatively silent about their impacts.  A First Solar representative claimed earlier this year that the company had the support of environmental organizations.  What role does such behind-the-scenes support play, and how does this impact Department of Interior's decision?

Desert Sunlight a Replay of Ivanpah?
Despite having the option…