WWP, CBD and 3 Tribes fight Spring Valley Wind Project

Suit Filed to Protect One of Nevada’s Largest Bat Roosts, National Park

For immediate release – January 25, 2011

Contacts: Jon Marvel, Executive Director Western Watersheds Project, 208.788.2290
Rob Mrowka, Center for Biological Diversity, 702.249.5821

LAS VEGAS, Nev – Two conservation groups and three Indian Tribes filed suit today to protect a pristine mountain valley adjacent to Great Basin National Park in Nevada from a poorly-sited 8000 acre industrial wind energy project, approved by the Department of the Interior with minimal environmental review. The valley is home to rare and imperiled wildlife such as the greater sage grouse, and sensitive species including golden eagles and free-tailed bats. The project area is also a sacred site to Western Shoshone Tribes.

“We hope this litigation will lead the federal government to choose less damaging locations for wind power developments,” said Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project.

“Renewable energy is nationally and globally important for addressing the growing threats from climate change,” said Rob Mrowka, an ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the parties in the suit. “But, renewable projects must be properly located with careful consideration of the values of not only the site but also of the surrounding area”.

On October 15, 2010 the Bureau of Land Management approved a proposal by Spring Valley Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of Pattern Energy of San Francisco, to construct the project on public lands in northeastern Nevada just north of Great Basin National Park. BLM approved the project over the objections of state and federal wildlife officials, nearby tribes, and conservation groups. Rather than carrying out a detailed review involving the preparation of an environmental impact statement, BLM instead prepared only a cursory environmental assessment.

“The best ways to avoid negative impacts of renewable energy projects are to carry out a thorough environmental review and site them carefully. Unfortunately, in this case BLM did neither,” noted Mrowka.

Read the rest of this entry »

WWP Sues to Stop Fast Tracked Ivanpah Power Plant in California

Endangered Desert Tortoise Further Imperiled by Remote Solar Plant

Female desert tortoise resting on the apron of her burrow about to get a power plant built on her doorstep. (2010) © Michael J. Connor

Female desert tortoise resting on the apron of her burrow about to get a power plant built on her doorstep. (2010) © Michael J. Connor

For several months we’ve been covering the progress of the, now approved, solar power plant at Ivanpah near Las Vegas on the California side of the Nevada/California border. Initial construction has begun and biologists have rounded up as many desert tortoises as they can to prepare the site for what essentially amounts to sterilization. In past studies where desert tortoises had been moved, half of them died while an equal number of tortoises at the site where they were moved to were subsequently displaced and died.

The energy company BrightSource Energy says that they want to mitigate the loss of the desert tortoise by restoring Castle Mountain Venture land and mining claims in an area to the north and add them to the Mojave National Preserve. This is all well and good but the lands are very poor desert tortoise habitat and would not compensate for the habitat lost due to the destruction that the new solar plant will cause.

It’s hard to call a project like this “green” when there is no corresponding reduction in greenhouse gas emitting coal or natural gas power plants and when the habitat destruction being caused further imperils the endangered desert tortoise and other species. This project keeps power generation in the hands of big corporations at the expense of taxpayers who would benefit more from subsidized use of less environmentally damaging rooftop solar.

One article, by the solar industry news site Solar Novus Today, about the lawsuit editorializes about the solar plant this way:

“One begins to wonder, aren’t we all on the same side? One of the main purposes of renewable energy is to protect the environment and help halt global warming. True, making money is a prime desire as well but if it wipes out the environmental concerns, we have, so to speak, thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Do we really need to put solar plants on pristine desert landscapes or on Native American sacred sites? It may take more time, effort and a little more money to research other less obvious sites, such as brownfields, but solar plants in these locations will accomplish both goals: keeping the environment safe and making money.”

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Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds Than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

Biofuel crops can be a big threat to wildlife, or not, as this article shows-

Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds. Science Daily.

Eagle Concerns Stymie Wind Farms

Wind Farms On Public Land Stymied By Eagle Concerns, Radar Interference

Spring Valley, NV ~ Katie Fite, WWP


The article notes a growing recognition of conflicts wind development on public lands are running into, slowing wind development on public lands across the West.

Eagle Concerns Stymie Wind FarmsAP

The only project approved is the Spring Valley wind farm in Nevada where the nearest eagle nest was over four miles away. Gina Jones, BLM’s project leader, said the company agreed to extensive mitigation, such as putting “anti-perch” devices on transmission poles within two miles of the wind farm.

You may remember that we’ve considered Spring Valley, Nevada on this site.  Having worked a little bit on the project, and considering the experts regard for the “extensive mitigation” measures that agency is accepting for these giant projects, it seems a bit disingenuous to suggest that BLM is doing a thorough job of genuinely considering the impacts.  Here you have big Wind putting in a farm at the mouth of the largest bat roost in the Great Basin Ecosystem and smack-dab in a sub-basin between two ranges that serve as parallel corridors for eagles. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Coral, Marine-Life Devastation Near BP Oil Spill Indicates Much Worse Long-Term Damage Than Feds Had Admitted

Profound changes to the entire ecology of the Gulf

This is part of what makes Obama/Salazar appear tone deaf to what occurred during the Gulf Oil Spill and I think it played a big part in people’s loss of faith in his administration and big losses seen in the Congress by Democrats. Rather than using this as an opportunity to impose real regulation on big oil they downplayed what the real implications of the spill were and, some would say, actively covered up how much oil was leaked and how much damaged was caused.

Meanwhile BP claimed big quarterly profits.

And you wonder why voters are so cynical……

Coral, Marine-Life Devastation Near BP Oil Spill Indicates Much Worse Long-Term Damage Than Feds Had Admitted.
Associated Press

Update 11/10. I read this today. . . Ralph Maughan. Oil from the BP Disaster May Remain Thick on the Seafloor. Scientific American. The sea floor is covered with what is thought to be oil topped off with something they term “slime snot.”  This is probably a layer of bacteria eating the oil.  My thought is, disgusting, but maybe hopeful.

Oregon Field Guide — Wind and Bats

17,000 dead bats/year in Oregon before a proposed 15-fold increase in wind energy.

The drumbeat behind the “green energy” movement is beating louder for wind farms across the landscape, especially on public lands. At the rate that things are going there may be huge effects on bats and birds of many types. Oregon Field Guide has done a segment investigating the impacts on bats in particular and they are severe.

I fail to see how something that causes such negative impacts on wildlife could be called “green”.

Oregon Field Guide — Wind and Bats
Oregon Public Broadcasting.