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Showing posts with the label birds

BrightSource Suspends Rio Mesa Project

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Luckily for the birds using habitat along the Colorado River, part of the bird migratory corridor known as the Pacific Flyway, BrightSource Energy has temporarily suspended its plans to develop the Rio Mesa Solar project.  The California Energy Commission (CEC) staff, wildlife officials and conservation groups expressed concern during environmental review that the project's proposed location and design -- involving the solar power tower technology -- puts birds at risk of collision with the project's thousands of mirrors, or risk of eye damage and burning from superheated air above the project. 

Another downside of the Rio Mesa Project that likely stalled its environmental review is the fact that BrightSource Energy chose a location that contains a lot of microphyll woodland habitat.  According to the CEC preliminary staff assessment, the microphyll woodland habitat type "support[s] 85 percent of all bird nests built in the Colorado Desert, despite accounting for onl…

BLM Signals Approval for Searchlight Wind Project Despite Objections

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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) last month issued the final environmental impact statement for Duke Energy's Searchlight Wind energy project, signaling initial approval for the company to industrialize nearly 29 square miles of Mojave Desert habitat near the small town of Searchlight, Nevada. Once the Department of Interior signs the record of decision -- expected early this year -- Duke Energy will transform this peaceful corner of the desert with 87 wind turbines (each standing taller than the Statue of Liberty) 35 miles of new gravel roads, and 16 miles of new transmission and collector lines, according to the BLM assessment. Construction will require over 9,000 trips by diesel trucks, and tons of cement and steel.

Potential Impacts on Wildlife Are Extensive
The area targeted by Duke Energy for the project is full of creosote bushes and Mojave yucca that can be hundreds of years old, and is surrounded by the Piute - El Dorado Critical Habitat Unit for the threatened deser…

Big Victory for Wildlands

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Patriot coal announced this week that it was stepping away from mountaintop removal in Appalachia.  Although a far distance from America's southwestern deserts, industrial-scale energy development is a familiar threat to conservationists whether you live in West Virginia or California.
The Patriot Coal announcement is the result of sustained pressure from the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club, and West Virgnia Highlands Conservancy. Patriot is one of the three largest mountaintop coal mining companies, so its announcement is a reason to celebrate, although there is more work to be done to save the wildlands of Appalachia from other coal companies and industrial-scale wind.  The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, one of the groups involved in pressuring Patriot Coal, is also fighting to save the region's ridgelines from industrial-scale wind, which has destroyed viewsheds, fragmented habitat, and has begun to take a severe toll on the area's bird and bat po…

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…

Tortoises Handled by BrightSource Facing Hard Times

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BrightSource Energy's negative impact on the desert tortoise population in the northeastern Mojave Desert continues to be felt, as tortoises removed from their burrows to make way for bulldozers or other construction equipment continue to go missing or die.  As of August, three tortoises translocated from BrightSource holding pens, and four others recently handled by BrightSource crews have been killed -- at least six of them by coyotes.  The translocated tortoises probably were more vulnerable to predators and other environmental factors after being displaced from their habitat to make way for BrightSource's Ivanpah Solar project.   In May the company reported to the California Energy Commission that six tortoises held in BrightSource's pens went missing, while several tortoises died last year after being attacked by ants in the pens.

Biologists have warned that tortoises relocated from their home territory can be more susceptible to predation, may have difficulty finding …

Interior Celebrates Grim Statistic

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The Department of Interior reached its goal of approving 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy projects on public lands this week.  As people across the globe look for places to install solar panels in their cities or on already-disturbed lands, Washington DC has decided that it will stick to the tired tradition of feeding our energy addiction by destroying beautiful landscapes.

The Sierra Madre/Chokecherry Wind project in Wyoming --the project that pushed Interior over the 10,000 MW mark -- is very representative of the unsustainable direction our industrial renewable energy policy is taking.  It will destroy and fragment nearly 355 square miles of Wyoming wildlands, and scientists estimate that it could kill as many as 5,400 birds and 6,300 bats each year Wyoming's air and water were already sacrificed to the natural gas and coal industries, now even more pristine lands and wildlife will be lost. The customers of this energy could be hundreds of miles away, requiring new transm…

Speak Up: USFWS to Extend Eagle Kill Permits

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is accepting public comments until midnight 12 July on a proposal to extend eagle "take" permits -- permission to kill or harass protected bald and golden eagles -- from 5 years to 30 years.  The move is intended to make it easier for the wind energy industry, which is building massive wind facilities that are already killing the protected birds.

For some good background, Chris Clarke wrote a great piece on the proposed rule on KCET.  The bottom line, though, is that wildlife officials will end up giving permission to wind companies to kill eagles over a 30-year period, and eliminate flexibility to save the birds if their numbers dwindle during those 30 years.  How will the USFWS save a threatened bald or golden eagle population if they cannot do anything to stop one of the birds' biggest threats -- spinning wind turbines -- because they issued too many permits some 30 years earlier?

Locking wildlife management into 30-year contra…

Sierra Club Endorses Wyoming Wind Farm That Will Slaughter Golden Eagles

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The Director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign and the group's Deputy Conservation Director applauded Department of Interior's plans to authorize a 355 square mile industrial wind facility in Wyoming that is expected to kill as many as 5,400 birds and 6,300 batseach year.  The Club's "Blowing in the Right Direction" article in Grist claims the energy could be shipped nearly 700 miles to Nevada in order to replace the dirty Reid Gardner coal plant, even though the Sierra Club released a study in June saying that Reid Gardner could be shut down by implementing local energy efficiency measures that actually save ratepayers money. 

Extensive Impacts
The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Project -- a single project divided into two units that each span over 100,000 acres of mostly ecologically intact Wyoming wildlands -- would be built by an affiliate of the multi-billion dollar Anschutz Corporation.  The company operates oil fields, mines, and sports stad…

Sierra Club Lobbying for Wind Industry; Wind Industry Lobbying Against Wildlife

It's an odd situation when the Sierra Club provides unconditional support to an industry that describes wildlife and conservation goals as "obstacles," lobbies to weaken the environmental laws we have fought hard to institute and enforce, and enjoys comfortable access to a White House promoting an "all of the above" energy policy that is taking its toll on our climate and our public lands.  In a blog post titled "Americans Agree With President Obama: Wind Is the Way," Sierra Club Director of Clean Energy Dave Hamilton calls for the renewal of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) that has driven the wind industry's expansion onto wildlands in recent years,  yet the wind industry simultaneously ignores the Club's conservation concerns and dismisses guidance from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to avoid impacts on protected and endangered bats and birds.

The wind industry is not as toxic as coal, but it has about as much regard for conserva…

BrightSource Energy Complains About Due Diligence

BrightSource Energy, while receiving bad press for displacing or killing over 160 desert tortoises at its Ivanpah Solar project, is now complaining that the California Energy Commission (CEC) and US Fish and Wildlife Service are requiring it to conduct thorough bird and bat surveys for its proposed Rio Mesa Solar project.  BrightSource on 27 February filed a document with the CEC objecting to the avian surveys, part of its ongoing protest of the environmental review process.   Officials and citizens have expressed profound concern because the Rio Mesa Solar facility would be built along the Colorado River in a key bird migration corridor known as the Pacific Flyway.  The facility would also be located near the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, which hosts 288 species of birds.  A past study has indicated high rates of avian mortality at power tower solar facilities, and State and Federal officials are keen to understand whether or not Federally protected raptors and migratory birds fly…

BrightSource Balks at Environmental Concerns

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BrightSource Energy is on the defensive as wildlife officials express valid concerns that its proposal to bulldoze 9 square miles of California desert will kill protected raptors and migratory birds, in addition to concerns about other wildlife and rare plants.  BrightSource proposes to build two new projects that involve thousands of large mirrors called "heliostats" that focus the sun's rays at a central point on top of a 750 foot tall "power tower" to heat a steam generator.  The super-heated air around the top of the tower is likely to "incinerate" eagles and other birds that fly above the facility, according to communication between the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).  The other major threat will be the thousands of heliostat mirrors that reflect the sky and cause bird collisions.

The Rio Mesa solar project would be built on nearly 9 square miles of public and private lands in a migratory corridor for…

BLM Continues Review of Searchlight Wind Project

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The BLM later this month may release a preliminary environmental impact review for Duke Energy's proposed wind project near Searchlight, Nevada, according to Basin and Range Watch.  The project's monstrous proportions would industrialize 38 square miles of desert landscapes with up to 140 wind turbines.  Each turbine would be over 400 feet tall -- that is over 100 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.  The turbines would pose a threat to hawks, eagles and other bird life in the area, and would require miles of new roads etched into the valleys and hillsides.   You can find beautiful photos of the area, including wildlife and landscapes, at this website put up by Basin and Range Watch.

The amount of land that will be transformed by the project is difficult to fathom.  The Google Earth image below shows an overlay of the proposed project footprint on Las Vegas.  If the same project were built in Las Vegas, it would stretch from McCarran International Airport in the south to Nor…

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…