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Support for Politically Favored Businesses

Once concept Resourceful Earth has attempted to hammer home is the use of government by environmental activists to delay or slow down energy and natural resource production projects. There are millions of ways of accomplishing this. Environmentalists have urged the use of the Clean Water Act to preemptively deny necessary permits for the proposed Pebble Mine. Environmentalists have demanded months worth of additional environmental studies for the Keystone XL Pipeline, whose route has been extensively studied and uses well known technologies (a pipeline). As mentioned last week, oil refineries stand little chance of being built at all in the U.S. due to environmental lawsuits and onerous regulations. Needless to say, if activists or governments don’t want a project to go forward they have a number of methods to delay or stop the construction.

However, the story is different if you are a politically favored business that the government wants to promote. As the Wall Street Journal notes, the Interior Department is expediting approvals and “streamlining” parts of the National Environmental Protection Act:

[...]Interior boasts that “this represents a major step forward in the permitting of utility-scale solar energy on public lands throughout the west.” This means opening up huge chunks of U.S. desert and wilderness to the installation and long-term placement of hundreds of thousands of solar panels. The dirty secret of solar and wind power is that they are extremely land intensive, especially compared to coal mining, oil and gas drilling or building a nuclear power plant.

That’s only part of the special treatment for solar companies. Interior says it plans to expedite solar-project approval and cut up-front costs for developers. The agency is also streamlining National Environmental Policy Act approval and facilitating the linking of solar electricity generation to transmission lines that will carry the electricity to substations. All of this is on top of the $9 billion in taxpayer handouts for solar and wind projects that were approved between 2009 and 2011.

In short, green energy is getting an EZ Pass through the Administration’s costly regulatory tolls. Since taking office in 2009, the Obama Administration has approved 17 major solar projects on public lands. All of this is facilitated through a program called the “roadmap for solar energy development.”

What’s surprising is that few if any nature groups are protesting this regulatory rush to approve renewable energy projects. Environmental groups have never hesitated to block a dam to save a snail darter, or oppose a forest-clearing to save an owl, but desert tortoises and bighorn sheep are apparently expendable as sacrifices to the gods of green energy. So much for protecting wildlife from big, bad profit-making industry.

It seems unlikely that there will be significant, if any, harm from speeding up approval for these types of projects. However, the same can be said for fossil fuel development on public lands, which receive the opposite type of treatment. Our permitting laws are highly dysfunctional. Effort out to be expended into fixing these laws, rather than eliminating them for politically favored businesses.

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