Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Some green groups finally seem to be expressing concern that colossal renewable infrastructure projects on federal land, clearing, poisoning and paving over millions of acres of federally protected wilderness, for solar farms and wind projects, might harm the natural environment.
Government’s Push for Solar Power on Federal Lands Stirs Concerns
Environmentalists, renewable-energy firms raise doubts over plan to streamline permitting process.
SAGUACHE, Colo.—Over Key lime pie at The Oasis, one of this tiny town’s two restaurants, officials from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and local leaders grappled recently with a big problem: the failure to attract solar energy companies to the San Luis Valley, whose elevation of over 7,000 feet should make for prime solar potential.
For now, the only solar-power production in the valley, a scenic expanse a few hours south of Denver, is on private land—despite years of effort by local BLM officials to develop solar on federal lands here, including an auction in 2013 that attracted zero bids from renewable-energy companies.
“At the risk of ruffling the feathers around this table,” said Jason Anderson, Saguache County commissioner, “I’d pick a solar project on private lands over public lands. It’s going to be a lot quicker.”
Clean-power advocates say the millions of acres of federal lands, with their wide expanses and low population, are a natural home for wind and solar projects. After nearly eight years of regulations curtailing pollution from fossil fuels, the new rule will be the administration’s first major stab at regulating renewable-energy development on public lands.
Yet many traditional allies are dividing over the rule. Environmentalists welcome renewable energy, but worry about how wind and solar projects on federal lands affect wildlife and other natural resources. Renewable-energy companies anticipate new opportunities, but say the rule could lead to higher costs. The administration is seeking to strike a balance between the two, while pursuing its goal of fighting climate change by doubling down on renewable energy.
BLM, which manages 250 million acres of federal lands mostly in Western states, has employed a patchwork of interim policies since 2009 to approve and manage these projects. Officials hope the new rule will speed and simplify the process.
This effort to accelerate the wanton destruction of millions of acres of wilderness – is mild concern really all that green groups can manage?
I mean I have no problem with sacrificing a few acres for a new mine, for producing the raw materials which make our modern civilisation possible, but I’m horrified at the thought of bulldozing, paving, poisoning, uprooting millions of acres of land for no useful purpose whatsoever.
If this plan goes ahead, thousands, millions of acres of renewable installations will be built, only to be abandoned as soon as the subsidy money dries up. But the scars on the once pristine wilderness will last for centuries.
One day green groups will realise to their shame what they have done, by facilitating this senseless industrial madness, this destruction without purpose. Let us hope that an awakening comes soon enough, to save some of the untouched wilderness which green groups once committed themselves to protecting.