Showing posts from April, 2011

Spring Blooms

  Pollination in action as a bee visits phacelia (lace-leafed?) in the Newberry Mountains Wilderness Area of the Mojave Desert.

Revised Biological Assessment of Ivanpah Site Underscores Poor Choices

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a revised biological assessment for BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System, indicating the likely presence of a high density of endangered desert tortoises on the 5.6 square mile swath of public land.  The revised assessment is required because BLM and the US Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the number of tortoises impacted by the project would far exceed the 38 expected to be killed or displaced by construction and operation.  The assessment provides detailed estimates of the number of tortoises that might be killed,  harassed (marked, handled, etc), translocated (moved a distance away from where it was found), or held in quarantine.  Capture/Collect: BLM now anticipates capturing and collecting about 162 adult tortoises (animals that are 160mm or larger).   At least 60, but as many as 90 non-adult tortoises (smaller than 160mm) will be captured, although this represents only a fraction of the exp

BrightSource Energy's Plans in Trouble--Buyer's Remorse?

BrightSource Energy is offering to reduce its Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System project by 12% in response to concerns about its environmental impacts, but will that be enough?  The company already exceeded the "take" limit established by the US Fish and Wildlife Service since it has displaced at least 49 endangered desert tortoises, as of February.  The project was only approved to displace 36.  According to High Country News , a second tortoise died on the site from heat distress as it attempted to return to its now-destroyed burrow in a bulldozed area of the project. The company now expects to displace or kill at least 140 tortoises if all three phases of the approved project are completed.  BrightSource Energy's 12% footprint reduction is likely inadequate, and an official interviewed by High Country News stated that the US Fish and Wildlife Service reserves the right to call "jeopardy" (limiting the project) if the current review determines that i

Hetch Hetchy and the Ivanpah Valley: Preserving Local Values While Meeting Global Needs

In 1913, John Muir found himself confronting formidable forces that sought to entomb a pristine valley he had long fought to protect.  Congress, the White House, and San Francisco's water utility were eager to fill the beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley near Yosemite with water that would supply a growing metropolis far away on California's coast.  Muir was an amicable, reasonable and open-minded naturalist, as portrayed in A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir by Donald Worster.  He did not fight projects for the sake of obstruction, but for sensible policy. There were other sources of water closer to San Fransisco, he argued, and it was needlessly accepted that the city's growth and thirst should not be tamed or made more efficient. Muir would not relent in his battle to save Hetch Hetchy, even when his own friends betrayed him.  Andrew Carnegie cast Muir's concerns aside and said: "John Muir is a fine Scotchman... but for all that it is too foolish to say tha

Parts of Ivanpah Solar Construction Temporarily Halted

The Department of Interior ordered BrightSource Energy LLC to temporarily halt construction on phases 2 and 3 of the Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System since the project's impacts on the endangered desert tortoise have exceeded initial estimates.  The 5.6 square mile project is being built on public land and was approved by the Department of Interior and California Energy Commission in October after a hasty environmental review process.   Washington and Sacramento were intent on approving the project in time for BrightSource to qualify for taxpayer-backed financing. Creosote bush scrub habitat in the Ivanpah Valley, with the Clark Mountains in the background.  This photo was taken in March 2010, before construction began. During the environmental review last year, the Department of Interior estimated that the Ivanpah project would displace or kill 34 desert tortoises , which was still a phenomenally high number for a species that is in decline throughout its range and a te

Sierra Club Lawsuit Tossed Out by Court; Calico Site in Jeopardy

The California Supreme Court this month denied a petition by the Sierra Club that challenged the California Energy Commission's (CEC) inadequate environmental review for the Calico Solar power project.  A similar legal challenge by California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) was also thrown out by the court.  The Calico Solar power project was initially proposed by Tessera Solar LLC and approved by the CEC and Department of Interior last year.  Tessera Solar has since sold the project rights to K Road Power (aka K Road Solar), which is proposing to modify the 7.2 square mile project to use more photovoltaic panels to supplement Tessera Solar's disastrous SunCatchers . One of many desert tortoises inhabiting the pristine desert where K Road Power plans to build a massive solar facility.  Photo courtesy of Basin and Range Watch . The court decision is unwelcome news for concerned citizens who point to the Calico site's rich biodiversity and abundant desert tortoise p

Petition to Stop Ivanpah

BrightSource Energy LLC's plans to bulldoze 5.6 square miles of pristine desert habitat on public land is expected to displace or kill 140 desert tortoises.  The number of tortoises thriving on this land is a testament to the habitat quality and biodiversity on the site, but the environmental costs were ignored by the Department of Interior, headed by Secretary Ken Salazar, during a faulty approval process for the BrightSource's Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System. Sign the petition now to tell Secretary Salazar to hault construction at Ivanpah and keep solar panels on rooftops, and off of tortoise habitat!

Solar Energy On the Wrong Path

Thousand of rooftops in our cities bake under the California sun, and hundreds of thousands of acres of already-disturbed land identified by EPA's RE-powering America's Land program sit idle -- perfect places for solar panels.  BrightSource Energy LLC, which portrays itself as an innovative solar energy company, ignored these options and decided to begin bulldozing 5.6 square miles of pristine desert habitat on public land (using 1.4 billion dollars of taxpayer-backed financing). A video recently released on You Tube (below) of crews clearing old growth desert for BrightSource's Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System in the northeastern Mojave Desert reveals a different kind of company.  This is a business that is not worthy of the "green" reputation bestowed upon it by those who only believe in protecting nature when she is not standing in the way of profit. Desert shrubs and Yuccas that took hundreds of years to grow--symbolic of nature's persevearance

Citizen Coalition Criticizes Obama Energy Proposal

A coalition of energy experts, biologists and concerned citizens known as Solar Done Right issued 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 companies .  The 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 Do

On Green Jobs

The massive solar power projects that threaten to destroy public land throughout America's southwestern deserts are coated in economic promise.  The Obama administration included loan guarantees and grants as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act in order boost renewable energy generation, and Congress extended the Treasury Grant Program that funnels taxpayers' money to renewable energy companies.   In order to justify this money, the projects are promoted by politicians as "green" job creation engines, but the impact of these jobs is inflated and misleading.  Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger touted the need for green jobs in his recent opinion piece in the Atlantic Monthly, and large-scale solar projects on public land feature prominently in the President's energy blueprint.   The energy companies promise to turn around the recession if they are given unfettered access to public land and money.  Tessera Solar LLC CEO Robert Lukefahr complained

Destruction of the Ivanpah Valley

Basin and Range Watch posted new photos of the construction of BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System in the northeastern Mojave Desert.  Taxpayers' money is being used to provide 1.4 billion dollars in financing to the project, and American citizens are giving up over 5 square miles of public land to the company.  According to the draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement , the Department of Interior expects the solar energy industry to bulldoze over 300 square miles of desert habitat -- multiply the destruction in the photos below by 150 if you want to imagine what our energy policy will do to our public land. The destruction in this aerial photo represents only about a third of the total project.  Photo from Basin and Range Watch . Bulldozers scraped away once pristine desert habitat.  The project is estimated to displace or kill nearly 140 endangered desert tortoises, according to the BLM .  Photo from Basin and Range Watch . Check