Big Polluters Freed from Environmental Oversight by Stimulus

Big Energy companies with criminal records given billions in stimulus funds to wreak havoc on our public lands and wildlife.

The Center for Public Integrity has issued a stinging report on how the Obama Administration has bypassed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when issuing permits for energy and other projects which involve federal lands or funds. Over and over we have seen that projects are rushed through without any public oversight and in areas where they have severe environmental impacts. Wind farms on public lands without analysis of their impacts on bats, sage grouse, pygmy rabbits, and other wildlife; solar plants on public lands without sufficient analysis on endangered desert tortoise and other imperiled wildlife; power lines and other utilities permitted outside of established corridors without analysis of impacts on wildlife; offshore oil rigs in deep water without proper understanding of how to deal with catastrophic failures. All of these uses are being given a pass under NEPA.

Salazar = Extractive Industries' 'BFF'

What is the problem with this you might ask. Well, I’m sure you remember what happened in the Gulf of Mexico this summer. The Deepwater Horizon was permitted under a categorical exclusion.

In contrast livestock grazing permits are not even renewed under categorical exclusions, they require at least an Environmental Assessment that must undergo public review and can be appealed, in fact I do it all of the time.

These projects also only benefit those with existing power and money while projects, such as rooftop solar and energy efficiency improvements on existing structures which would benefit real people and not come at the expense of irreplaceable wildlife and land resources, are being forgone. It’s all about keeping the wealthy in control of our resources at the public expense.

What is next? Well in Nevada, the scourge of ranchers and water mining entities like the Southern Nevada Water Authority, ancient forests made up of old growth pinyon pine and junipers are being eyed by the energy companies as a source of biomass to fuel turbines. More on that later.

Big Polluters Freed from Environmental Oversight by Stimulus
The Center for Public Integrity

Ivanpah Power Plant – Not Clean Not Green

Michael J. Connor, Ph.D.
California Director
Western Watersheds Project

Ancient Mojave yuccas on the Ivanpah power plant site. (2009) © Michael J. Connor, Ph.D.

Ancient Mojave yuccas on the Ivanpah power plant site. (2009) © Michael J. Connor, Ph.D.

Secretary of the Interior Salazar is about to initial a series of major giveaways of public lands in California to industrial-scale solar power producers. These “fast-tracked” power plant projects have had truncated environmental reviews in the current administration’s rush to place huge chunks of public land in the hands of developers to build on them at public expense.

The Ivanpah Solar Power Plant project is a prime example. The project’s proponent, BrightSource Energy, will build an experimental “power tower” solar power plant on over five and a half square miles of high quality desert tortoise habitat in California’s Ivanpah Valley. The 1.7 billion dollar project will be primed with $1.3 billion in public “economic stimulus” funds provided by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

The project is the first of a number of power plants proposed for public lands in the Ivanpah Valley. A photovoltaic plant is planned right next door to the Ivanpah power plant. Just down the valley over the Nevada border is the proposed Silver State power plant. These and other projects will block off the Ivanpah Valley, turn the North Ivanpah Valley into an industrial zone, and will have major consequences for rare and endangered wildlife. Although the ESA-listed desert tortoise population is declining, the Ivanpah power plant will split the North Ivanpah Valley, eliminate desert tortoise habitat, require that resident tortoises be relocated placing them and any resident tortoises at the relocation site in danger, and will severely compromise connectivity and gene flow between important desert tortoise populations. It will also impact foraging for bighorn sheep and other wildlife, a number of rare plants, and an assemblage of barrel cactus unrivaled elsewhere in the Golden State. Native Americans cultural remains including unusual stone structures will be stranded in a sea of mirrors. The agencies don’t know what these structures are, so how can they be important? No matter that the local Chemehuevi Indians don’t share that view.

Read the rest of this entry »

Anthrax again detected on Turner’s ranch, outbreak not expected

Ranch near Green Ranch which holds quarantined Yellowstone bison.

A yearling bison on Ted Turner’s Flying D Ranch has been found to have died from anthrax. The bison is not one of the quarantined Yellowstone bison transferred to Turner but this is nearby Turner’s Green Ranch where the quarantined bison are being held. This concern was brought up by those who opposed the transfer that will result in the privatization of 75% of the bison progeny after 5 years.

There was an outbreak on the Flying D Ranch in 2008 which killed more than 200 domestic bison. The Montana State veterinarian Dr. Martin Zaluski doesn’t expect there to be a further outbreak because Turner’s bison have been vaccinated for anthrax.

Anthrax again detected on Turner’s ranch, outbreak not expected.
By DANIEL PERSON, Bozeman Daily Chronicle Staff Writer

Posted in Bison, disease, privatization. Tags: , . Comments Off on Anthrax again detected on Turner’s ranch, outbreak not expected

A Valles Caldera National Park At Long Last?

Famed former Baca Ranch could emerge as national park after failed “free market” experiment-

I have never been to this famous New Mexico supervolcano area with its scenic, but degraded grasslands and forests.  The area is notable for its elk, but the herd is much smaller than it could be due to the competition with livestock.

In 2000 this former ranch was purchased by the U.S. government to become a national preserve, but under the rules of right wing ideology.  The former ranch, as a preserve, was to be managed by the Valles Caldera Trust.  It was supposed to be run much like a ranch — generate its own income by grazing, logging, oil and gas, and maybe geothermal development, and expensive visitor fees. These are hardly the rules the public expects for land it bought for scenic and environmental protection.

At the time, I wrote the whole thing off as a waste of money doomed to fail, and I forgot about it.  I was right. The area could not support itself financially without destroying its amenities. Today it is overgrazed and too expensive to use, and the local public wants it transferred to the National Park Service to restore it and allow affordable public access.

There is a bill before Congress (S.3452) by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Tom Udall (D-NM) to transfer it to the Park Service.  If it becomes a national park, or some other public land unit, it will have to be rehabilitated.

RLMiller at Daily Kos has written a number of articles about it. Here is his latest. Hike On: A Valles Caldera National Park At Long Last? July 3, 2010

Energy chief stuns environmentalists with renewable energy approach

Nevada’s energy chief wants to take Federal Lands and hand them over to energy companies.

Jim Groth, an appointee of Governor Jim Gibbons, published a declaration which calls for turning the State of Nevada into an energy colony and he doesn’t think it should be subject to National Environmental Policy Act requirements.

“The greatest thing holding Nevada back from achieving economic success right now is the need to satisfy onerous policies or laws and have the ‘right’ paperwork in order,” Groth writes in his “declaration.”

Nevada has become the latest target of energy producers and transmitters of all stripes. Gigantic solar and wind plants as well as geothermal plants have been proposed on public lands. El Paso Corp’s Ruby Pipeline has received preliminary permission to pass through northern Nevada’s most pristine sage grouse and pygmy rabbit habitat. There are also a number of proposed transmission lines to support these developments.

Public lands are not a renewable resource and the kind of development proposed in Nevada will have devastating impacts on wildlife there. It is time to make a major push towards rooftop solar and conservation rather than these centralized power plants on public lands which require transmission lines that lose power getting the electricity to where it is used.

Energy chief stuns environmentalists with renewable energy approach.
Las Vegas Sun

Agency mulls selling public land for mine

1,142 acres of BLM Land in southeast Idaho could be sold to Simplot for phosphate mining

This would be a precedent setting decision that would eliminate access to this land and limit input into how it is managed.

Agency mulls selling public land for mine
TODD DVORAK – Associated Press

The Privatization of Wildlife

How Ted Turner Scored Yellowstone’s Bison Herd

A good overview of the buffalo issue and how they continue to be persecuted by Montana’s livestock industry and how the buffalo from the quarantine feasibility study ended up going to Ted Turner.

The Privatization of Wildlife: How Ted Turner Scored Yellowstone’s Bison Herd
AlterNet / By Joshua Frank