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Showing posts with the label Programmatic EIS

Renewable Energy Legislation Would Slash Environmental Protection

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The Wilderness Society is endorsing a bill that would encourage more corporate development of public lands, and allow Washington to undermine the National Environmental Police Act (NEPA).  The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act ( S. 1407, H.R. 2663) would require the Department of Interior to identify priority and "variance" development areas for wind and geothermal energy, adding to the controversial Solar Energy Zones and variance lands established in 2012.  The bill would not require "exclusion areas," would add staffing to speed up renewable energy permitting, and would allow Washington to short-circuit environmental review.

More of the Same...
Landscape-level planning could ostensibly protect desert wildlands, but programmatic energy development plans have shown significant deference to industry and offer environmental shortcuts for industry to bulldoze significant swaths of intact habitat.  If you want to imagine what will happen if the Public Land R…

Salazar Implements Solar Development Policy

As expected, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar signed the record of decision, officially implementing the Obama administration's Solar Energy Development Program.  For the most part, the policy codifies the status quo -- handing energy corporations wide access to public wildlands.  The initial intent of the policy proposal was to limit the destructive solar energy projects to specific zones, but after intense lobbying by the energy industry, the Obama administration included the option for companies to propose projects on nearly 30,000 square miles of "variance" lands outside of approximately 445 square miles of the solar energy zones.  This wide access to wildlands is the cause of so much concern among conservationists, since energy companies have sought to build on critical desert habitat, instead of already-disturbed lands.

Groups such as the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife suggested development should be limited to the zones, which already provided more land th…

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…

Citizens Urge Interior to Stop Solar Chaos

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Conservation groups and concerned citizens submitted comments last week on the Department of Interior's proposed policy to guide the siting of utility-scale solar on public lands.  Although the policy represents an improvement from an earlier draft,  the common denominator among the comments was that the proposed policy is still too weak to prevent industrial solar development from inflicting irreparable harm on our desert ecosystems.  In the meantime, we continue to face a status quo where the solar industry has unfettered access to bulldoze some of the most treasured public lands in America's southwestern states, ignoring a more efficient alternative of installing solar panels in our cities.


In the video above, a contractor for BrightSource Solar destroys desert vegetation, including a cluster of Yucca that are probably 400-800 years old.

Interior's Supplement to the Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement attempts to encourage industrial solar development in id…

Citizen Coalition Criticizes Obama Energy Proposal

A coalition of energy experts, biologists and concerned citizens known as Solar Done Rightissued a report Monday questioning why Washington wants to sacrifice hundreds of square miles of public land and billions of taxpayer dollars to solar energy companies instead of encouraging rooftop solar.   The report is available on Solar Done Right's website

Solar Done Right's report is a response to the policy proposals contained in the Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Draft PEIS).  The Draft PEIS was issued jointly by the Departments of Interior and Energy last year, and seeks to establish a policy of offering over 22 million acres of mostly pristine desert habitat for development to solar energy companiesThe Draft PEIS fails to consider alternatives to sacrificing public land,  such as implementing policies that encourage distributed generation (aka rooftop solar).   This blog previously commented on the inadequacies of the Draft PEIS

Solar Done Right…

Speak Up For An Energy Policy That Preserves Pristine Desert

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The Federal government is currently reviewing a broad policy shift that could encourage solar energy development on thousands of square miles of pristine public land in America's deserts, according to its Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS).  Unfortunately, the new policy fails to consider a much better alternative, which is to encourage solar energy development on rooftops and on already-disturbed lands.  After a summary of the policy's potential impacts, you can read below to learn how to submit public comments on the policy as a concerned citizen, and urge a smarter approach.

Summary of the Policy:
The Departments of Interior and Energy are jointly reviewing three alternative policies for permitting solar energy on public land.   Each alternative makes a different amount of public land available to energy companies, but the government estimates that companies will use 214,000 acres (334 square miles) within 20 years.

The "No Action Al…

Solar PEIS Public Meetings Announced

The Department of the Interior and Department of Energy have announced a series of public meetings during which concerns about the Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement  (Solar PEIS) can be expressed.   The Solar PEIS outlines Washington's plan to site renewable energy development on public lands throughout the American southwest.  The plan could impact hundreds of square miles of pristine desert habitat, including large plots of land in the Mojave Desert.  You can access the State-specific chapters for the PEIS at the Desert Protective Council website or the Solar PEIS website.

Below is a list of the public meetings.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 1:00pm:  Hilton Garden Inn Washington DC Downtown, 815 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005Monday, February 7, 2011 at 7:00pm:  Imperial County Admin. Center, 940 W. Main Street, Suite 211, El Centro, CA 92243Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 7:00pm:  Hyatt Grand Champions Resort, 44-600 Indian Wells Lane, Indian Wells, CA 92210T…

Solar Programmatic Draft EIS Available

The Departments of Interior and Energy released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the program to establish "solar energy zones" (SEZ) in America's southwestern deserts.  The Draft EIS evaluates the SEZs and other proposed permitting policies and guidelines that would streamline the process for government approval of solar energy projects on public land.  The Solar Energy Zones proposed for California cover approximately 530 square miles, far more land than is being considered in other states.

If done correctly, the program could steer more energy development to already-disturbed lands, and away from pristine desert habitat.  However, a cursory review of the SEZs proposed for California indicates that the Department of the Interior is still considering solar energy development in areas already confirmed to be of high ecological and cultural value, such as the Pisgah area (near the proposed Calico Solar power project) and the Imperial Valley. The Chuckwalla V…

Important Week for America's Deserts

Stay tuned this week for a few policy and legal developments that will have an impact on our southwestern deserts, including the Mojave.

1.) Solar Programmatic Draft EIS:  The Department of the Interior is expected to release the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for its program to rapidly site and permit massive solar facilities on public land, mostly in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts.  Once the draft EIS is available,  probably by the end of the week, the Department of the Interior will accept public comments.  One of the key components to watch for are the boundaries of its proposed "solar energy zones," where utility-scale energy projects will be encouraged.  The initial "study zones" proposed late last year included ecologically important sites near the Cady Mountains in the Mojave, and throughout the Chuckwalla Valley in the Sonoran Desert.  Projects already approved for these areas by the Federal government and State of California threaten to displa…