Environmentalists suing the Interior Department over… solar zones

posted at 5:31 pm on February 16, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

Oh, the sweet, sweet irony of environmentalist infighting.

The Obama administration (while somehow finding every excuse in the world to dawdle and delay on major economy-impacting items like federal drilling permits, hydraulic fracturing rules, and the Keystone XL pipeline) decided to make an especial project out using public lands for utility-scale solar plants. The Interior Department identified ‘solar zones’ across Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, and prioritized designing a program to fast-track solar permits for their designated areas.

The entire purpose of this ostentatious bureaucratic exercise, of course, is to help the Obama administration beef up and showcase their super-duper green, environmentalist credentials… except that a lot of well-organized environmentalists are actually pretty ticked off about the whole thing.

Three environmental groups are suing the Department of Interior for what they say is the federal government’s failure to consider already-degraded land for these ecologically “destructive” solar plants, and that they’re instead sticking the projects wherever they darn well feel like it without fully considering the consequences:

A complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on Tuesday by the Western Lands Project, Desert Protective Council, and Western Watersheds Project says the government’s analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) “ignored alternative approaches that would be less damaging to the environment, more efficient, and less costly to taxpayers and ratepayers.” …

“Massive solar power plants will have irreversible, essentially permanent, impacts. The [Bureau of Land Management (BLM)] admits that ecological recovery after solar plants are decommissioned, if even possible, could take 3,000 years,” the groups said.

“The Administration is opting to needlessly turn multiple-use public lands into permanent industrial zones.” said Janine Blaeloch of the Seattle-based Western Lands Project. “Solar development belongs on rooftops, parking lots, already-developed areas, and on degraded sites, not our public lands.”

The Obama administration may have been hasty and careless about fully anticipating the unintended consequences of their political agenda in their eagerness to show off their total awesomeness, say what?

This is far from the first time various environmentalist groups have been dissatisfied with the federal government’s solar policies; some eco-groups will come out swinging in protection of the desert tortoise’s natural habitat while other lobbies are more about trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions via ostensibly green energy forms, so it’d be tough to please them all, I suppose. Still, the fact that a big reason that the Obama administration is doing this is specifically to tout their green-friendly agenda, and that environmentalists are giving them some of the most significant grief about the endeavor, pleases me to no end.


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