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California Environmentalists Sue to Stop Wind Farm

At another blog run by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, I covered a story in which environmental groups in California sued to stop the placement of solar panels in the middle of the Mojave desert (also known as the middle of nowhere):

AMARGOSA VALLEY, Calif. — April Sall gazed out at the Mojave Desert flashing past the car window and unreeled a story of frustration and backroom dealings.

Her small California group, the Wildlands Conservancy, wanted to preserve 600,000 acres of the Mojave. The group raised $45 million, bought the land and deeded it to the federal government.

The conservancy intended that the land be protected forever. Instead, 12 years after accepting the largest land gift in American history, the federal government is on the verge of opening 50,000 acres of that bequest to solar development.

Even worse, in Sall’s view, the nation’s largest environmental organizations are scarcely voicing opposition. Their silence leaves the conservancy and a smattering of other small environmental organizations nearly alone in opposing energy development across 33,000 square miles of desert land.

“We got dragged into this because the big groups were standing on the sidelines and we were watching this big conservation legacy practically go under a bulldozer,” said Sall, the organization’s conservation director. “We said, ‘We can’t be silent anymore.’ “

Similar stories can be heard across the desert Southwest. Small environmental groups are fighting utility-scale solar projects without the support of what they refer to as “Gang Green,” the nation’s big environmental players.

Environmentalists can never be pleased. Unfortunately for them, most Americans place a higher value on having access to energy (including energy produced from fossil fuels) than having an absolute pristine environment. As former California Governor and Lifelong Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger quipped: “If we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave desert, I don’t know where the hell we can put it.”

California has decided to aggressively develop renewable energy, at the urging of environmentalists. However, the environmentalists are also out in arms throughout the state trying to shut down specific projects because they don’t understand the concept of tradeoffs. These locations are selected by the companies for a reason, they’re likely the most affordable. If they continue to attack these renewable energy projects, energy costs are going to rise even more than they already are, and businesses are going to continue to relocate out of the state, a trend that has increased in recent years.

Here is yet another story of environmentalists opposing the development of wind energy in California, on the basis that they threaten avian populations:

A controversial wind-energy project threatening endangered California condors and golden eagles in California is the target of a federal lawsuit filed today by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Sierra Club against the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

Before turning to the court, the conservation groups met several times with the developer, asking that the some 100-turbine North Sky River wind project be redesigned to avoid known environmentally sensitive areas in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains and to include measures to reduce harm to at-risk bird species. However, the project is proceeding without these necessary changes.

Sprawling across more than 12,700 acres, the project’s alarming potential for impacts to rare and endangered species prompted warnings from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game in letters to Kern County supervisors, who approved zoning changes to accommodate the project. The North Sky River project is sited next to another wind farm – Pine Tree – that has a history of bird kills, including at least eight federally protected golden eagles in just over two years. The environmental review of the North Sky River project documented more than 50 golden eagle sightings and 14 nests within just 10 miles of the proposed site.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they are legitimately concerned with bird populations. But energy choices have tradeoffs, none are perfect. If individual groups continue to harass each and every energy project that pops up, there are consequences. The number of businesses fleeing California linked to above is just one of them.

 

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