Showing posts from September, 2011

Upcoming Hearing on Calico Solar Complaint

The California Energy Commission (CEC) on 3 October will hold a hearing to discuss a complaint by BNSF Railroad that Calico Solar LLC provided false statements during last year's permitting process, and sought approval from the CEC and Bureau of Land Management even though the company never had the ability to build the project in the first place.   BNSF is asking for the original approval for the project to be revoked, which would require the new owners of Calico Solar to complete a new approval process.  The new owners of the project are currently seeking bureaucratic shortcuts to rubber stamp modifications made to the Calico project so that it will meet the 31 December deadline to qualify for Federal subsidies. The false statements made last year are representative of energy company speculation on public land, proposing solar projects that would destroy critical habitat or--in the case of BNSF--jeopardize rail operations.  The public, other companies, and non-profits expend r

A Distracted Washington is Missing an Opportunity

Congress will attempt to grill Solyndra executives today to figure out why the ill-fated company received over 500 millions dollars from the Department of Energy loan guarantee program.  Just yesterday, First Solar Inc announced that it could not receive a DOE loan guarantee for its Topaz solar power project in California, which would destroy over 6 square miles of the Carrizo Plain.  First Solar's stock dropped to record lows as disappointed investors walked away. But First Solar's stock had already been dropping because of worries that the Solyndra scandal and a faulty White House investment strategy would undermine First Solar's other loan guarantees, including one for the Desert Sunlight project near Joshua Tree National Park.  Obama's energy policy has converted our fledgling clean energy sector into a casino, where big rollers can cart off public land and taxpayer money, and losers go bankrupt or watch their stock prices tumble? The Obama administration chose t

BLM to Host Public Meetings on Off-Road Plan

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is holding two public meetings to gather information on issues to consider and evaluate as it develops a new off-highway vehicle (OHV,  off-road vehicle, ORV) management plan for the western Mojave Desert.  You can find more information about the meetings by visiting the BLM announcement , but they will be held on 27 and 29 September. Ridgecrest , 6:30-9:30PM, 27 September 2011, Kerr McGee Center, 100 W. California Ave., Ridgecrest, CA 93555 , phone: (760) 499-5151    Barstow , 6:30-9:30PM, 29 September 2011, Hampton Inn, 2710 Lenwood Road, Barstow, California   92311, phone: (760) 253-2600 Hikers, rock hounds, OHV riders, campers, photographers, and people just looking to escape from the daily grind expect the BLM to maintain the desert's natural qualities while providing us access to the places we love, which is a difficult task.  Without a proper management plan and sufficient law enforcement, the desert ecosystem would not be able to

Salazar Visits Ivanpah

Secretary Salazar today visited the Ivanpah Valley to view the construction of First Solar's Silver State solar project.  Department of Interior has only approved the first phase so far -- little less than a square mile -- but First Solar has asked for Secretary Salazar's blessing to expand the project to over 10 square miles in a second phase. If this is approved,  First Solar's project would kill or displace endangered plant and wildlife, and block a north-south wildlife corridor connecting desert habitat in Nevada with the Mojave National Preserve to the south in California.   First Solar also wants to build another facility in the Ivanpah Valley -- the Stateline solar project -- which would decimate up to 3.4 square miles of habitat for the threatened desert tortoise. It's unfortunate that Secretary Salazar and First Solar think they are doing the country a favor by destroying beautiful public land when we can generate clean energy and create green jobs much mo

Green Jobs

Let's face it.  Building solar facilities on public land in the middle of the desert is not "green".  Bulldozers destroying shrubs and trees that have lived for hundreds of years, crushing the burrows of desert tortoises, and shattering once-beautiful vistas is unnecessary.  There are plenty of opportunities to build solar in our cities -- they are more efficient, create truly green jobs, and save public land for future generations.  If you want to see local solar in action, check out this 90 second video of workers installing solar panels over the parking lot of a football stadium in Washington DC.

Desert Tortoises Love Thunderstorms

Desert Tortoises spend the vast majority of their lives underground in the coolness of their burrows.  In the cool hours of the morning or evening they may come out to browse the vegetation.  They will also be lured outside during thunderstorms to visit spots where they know the water will form puddles.  These are the times to exercise the most caution when you're on the road. This adult tortoise was spotted in the middle of the road in the Mojave National Preserve about an hour after a thunderstorm passed through.  It was moved safely to the shoulder of the road.  It's difficult to spot tortoises when speeding along, especially since their low profile and color blends in with the road. This female desert tortoise was sunning herself on a dirt road in the Mojave National Preserve near Kelso Dunes.  She later found refuge in the shade of a desert plant. If you come across a tortoise, do not disturb it.  But if you find it in the middle of a well traveled road whe

Mission Accomplished...

Secretary of Interior Salazar is going to visit First Solar's Silver State solar project in Nevada on 20 September to tout "green" jobs and economic recovery. About 200 workers busily installing solar panels on once-pristine desert will provide Salazar with a backdrop that is sure to make headlines.  If the reporters bother to come back next year, the construction workers will have melted away, leaving no more than 10 permanent jobs.  And unless the Obama administration focuses on solar policy that creates a sustainable consumer-based market for solar in our cities, those reporters will still be covering contentious projects on public land that require large subsidies. First Solar began construction earlier this year on the first phase of the Silver State project, which will destroy a 1 square mile of desert habitat in the Ivanpah Valley, but they are applying to expand the project to well over 10 square miles in the second phase.    Notice that Salazar isn't going

Getting Solar Right

Today's hearing on Capitol Hill regarding the Obama administration's ill-fated investment of taxpayer money in the solar company Solyndra is an expected outcome from a misguided policy focused on creating quick jobs rather than smart investments.  That does not mean that solar is dead, and it does not mean that we should stop supporting innovation and development in our solar industry.  We need to look at our renewable energy needs and ask ourselves what will be driving investment and public support 20 years from now and what policies will get us there, not just what can make headlines tomorrow. What has been unfolding in America's southwestern deserts since 2009 -- rushed approvals for destructive solar facilities on public land creating only a handful of permanent jobs -- were symptoms of the same political myopia and hasty decisions that came back to bite administration officials at today's hearing.  Obama's footprint in the desert is a clear sign that the Whi

Desert Treasures

Get out of your car, and take a closer look at the desert and you'll be amazed and inspired by the life here.  Each plant is a triumph of life's persistence and adaptability.  Lizards, snakes, tortoises, moths, butterflies, beetles, kangaroo rats, shrews, raptors, vultures, owls, bobcats, bighorn sheep.  I wish I could spy them all, but mother nature does not make it easy.  Even in the heat of the day, though, all of the telltale signs are there -- tracks in the sand, burrows big and small, the withering remains of a spring bloom, scat, and owl pellets. A great blog that captures the beauty and elusiveness of some of the desert's majesty is The Rare Plant Treasure Hunt .  Check it out for some great photos and adventures! This photo by Amber Swanson at The Rare Plant Treasure Hunt blog shows a bear poppy ( Arctomecon merriamii) in the eastern Mojave Desert. What a beauty, and its scarcity must have made it all the more joyous to stumble upon!

Obama Retreats on Clean Air -- Surprised?

The White House announced today that it would retreat on its pledge to implement clean air rules, and will revisit the idea of healthy breathing in 2013.  The media has characterized the reaction from environmental groups as surprised and appalled.   However, looking at Obama's record--even his support for clean energy--shows he is following an "all of the above" policy that maximizes the exploitation of natural resources for profit. Obama's Secretary of Energy this week signaled his tacit support for the Keystone XL oil pipeline , carrying some of the dirtiest crude from tar sands in Canada straight to the United States.  In August, The President approved the sale of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico, just over a year after the horrible BP oil spill there.  Those leases could produce more oil than the Keystone pipeline could carry in one year. In March, Obama approved the sale of coal leases in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.  Four large tracts of l