Great news: Interior successfully fast-tracking solar projects in Arizona

posted at 7:46 pm on January 18, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

…Just what we’ve all been so eagerly waiting for, I’m sure.

The U.S. identified about 192,000 acres of government-owned land in Arizona that are suitable for commercial-scale solar and wind farms.

The agency also established the Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone, 2,550 acres in the state with strong sunlight and few resource conflicts that are well-suited for solar projects, according to a U.S. Interior Department statement today.

Agua Caliente is the third solar zone in Arizona and the 18th in the nation. Establishing such areas will facilitate development by identifying sites where projects are unlikely to face environmental hurdles and other potential problems.

It isn’t exactly that I’m so very dead-set against the Interior Department approving land use for solar projects, if they must, although it would obviously be better if the solar industry in general wasn’t so shamelessly subsidy-powered — but if solar panels can be legitimately cost-effective in some areas of super-sunny Arizona, fine.

What’s galling is that the Interior Department is deliberately fast-tracking and facilitating development for “renewable” projects that fit in comfortably with their political ideology while touting the stated aim of helping the U.S. become more energy-independent, but then they’re actively stalling on other oil-and-gas projects that would more thoroughly unleash the economy-growing fuel sources for which American businesses and consumers are clamoring.

The Interior Department announced a further delay on its fracking-rules proposals on Friday which, actually, is a good thing for the oil-and-gas industry, because it means Interior may be backing off somewhat on the overly onerous rules of their original intent. The real question, of course, is how long can the Obama administration keep stalling, pretending that the shale oil-and-gas boom isn’t providing a relatively clean source of energy that can put America on straight-and-narrow to domestic energy production and wealth-and-job creation, and keep acting as if the environmental lobby’s complaints actually hold any real water?

The Interior Department is delaying planned rules that would impose new requirements on the controversial oil-and-gas production method called hydraulic fracturing.

Interior said Friday that it will float a new version of draft rules first issued last May and take new comments on the proposal that will govern “fracking” on public lands.

“In response to comments from stakeholders and the public, the [Bureau of Land Management] is making improvements to the draft proposal in order to maximize flexibility, facilitate coordination with state practices and ensure that operators on public lands implement best practices,” Interior spokesman Blake Androff said Friday.

The decision to issue another draft, which is expected to surface in the first quarter of this year, marks a significant delay in the plan. Interior initially floated the draft rules last May, and had earlier intended to finalize them by the end of 2012, although that timeline had already slipped.


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