Posts

Industrialization of Western Mojave Desert Continues

Image
Terra-Gen Power has continued its expansive destruction of the western Mojave Desert as it adds nearly 205 wind turbines -- each over 400 feet tall -- replacing and industrializing a Joshua Tree woodland and creosote bush habitat on over 15 square miles.  The expansion adds to Alta Wind Energy Center, which is one of the largest of a slew of wind projects approved or under construction in the area.   Kern County approved the project despite concerns raised by residents and conservationists, adding to over 100 square miles of approved wind projects in the area. The massive wind projects pose a threat to California Condors and Golden Eagles, and require miles of wide access roads carved into the desert, fragmenting and destroying habitat.

But the impact goes beyond the ecological.  These are landscapes that we cherish and enjoy.  It can be a traumatic experience to see a peaceful stretch of desert transformed into an industrial zone. The desert we love is already under burden by huma…

Children's Book Takes on Death Valley

Image
A new children's book by artist and author Janet Morgan -- "Welcome to Death Valley!" -- takes young readers on a colorful journey through Death Valley National Park, exploring its dunes, rocky mountains, critters and wildflowers.  The desert can be a wondrous place, and Janet Morgan's book helps inspire that wonder by taking on what many perceive as a wasteland and revealing its fascinating life story.  Using ravens as guides, the author takes a trip around the desert park, explaining geological formations, the tell tale clues of critter tracks in the sand, the colorful rocks of Desolation Canyon and Artists Palette, and the oasis of Darwin Falls.



I grew up in the desert, and spent my summer breaks and weekends roaming the western Mojave Desert around Victorville looking for lizards (catch and release, of course) and interesting rocks.  I may be biased, but I think the desert is a great place to inspire a kid's respect for nature, to encourage them to appreciate…

Sentries in the Mojave

Image
Mojave yuccas stand sentry just south of Searchlight, Nevada, with Spirit Mountain in the distance.  Photograph taken at sunset in April 2012.  This desert would be industrialized for 87 wind turbines over 400 feet tall, and miles of wide access roads carved into the landscape if the Searchlight wind energy project is built.


Our Future Should Respect Our Past

"Hearsay." Storytelling.  That is how somebody described Native American history in an attempt to urge approval for a massive solar project in the desert. The individual was urging the California Energy Commission to overlook the presence of sacred sites on the same land where BrightSource Energy plans to build an industrial solar facility near Blythe, California.  But our history is not "hearsay." We are talking about centuries of cultural heritage and tradition.  If you discard that, you have an empty future ahead of you.

A series of articles in the Los Angeles Times has shed light on this tension by covering the mishaps at the construction site of NextEra's Genesis Solar power project in California.  At first, the solar project garnered attention when the eviction of kit foxes from their dens on the site likely led to an outbreak of deadly canine distemper that has now spread well beyond the construction site, which could affect the kit fox population th…

Creosote at Sunset

Image
The fading light of the setting sun behind a creosote bush, just south of Searchlight, Nevada. This desert would be industrialized with dozens of wind turbines over 400 feet high for Duke Energy's Searchlight Wind Energy Project.


Take Action on the Searchlight Wind Energy Project

The BLM is currently accepting public comments on the draft environmental impact statement for the the Searchlight Wind energy project, which would industrialize nearly 30 square miles of ecologically intact desert habitat in southern Nevada.  The wind turbines will pose a risk to raptors and migratory birds, the construction of new roads will kill or displace dozens of threatened desert tortoises and pose a continuing risk to the species through increased off-road vehicle activity.

Public comments are due no later than 18 April to the BLM.  For guidance and suggested talking points to use to craft your own comments, check out Basin and Range Watch's page here.

Ask EPA to Hold Reid Gardner Coal to a Higher Standard

As I mentioned in my last post on this, the EPA decided that clean air and health in desert communities and wildlands is less important than the profit margin of the coal industry.  Instead of selecting the best available technology to reduce emissions from the Reid Gardner coal power plant northeast of Las Vegas, the EPA's proposed rule would let it use a less effective means primarily to reduce Reid Gardner's cost of compliance.

The EPA published the proposed rule in the Federal Register (here), which means you have until 14 May to submit your comments to Webb.Thomas@epa.gov.  Here are some points to use to craft your own comments:
The EPA should require Reid Gardner coal power plant to adopt the best available technology to reduce emissions, which in this case would be the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology. The EPA's proposed rule does not properly address the impacts of its decision on the health of the Moapa Band of Paiutes, who live next to the power plan…