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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Billionaire brothers are funding climate change skeptics and Tea Party

The very rich funding political causes is not new, but the billionaire Koch Brothers are finally getting much deserved publicity-

That money is the “mothers milk of politics” is well known, but the identify of the mothers often isn’t. In recent years the role of really rich people funding their causes has mushroomed.  Rightwingers will point to George Soros, for example.

David and Charles Koch, the billionaires who own privately-held Koch Industries are not well known, however. A recent piece on their lavish funding of Tea Party organizations and various climate change deniers was profiled in the New Yorker magazine. Now many other media are investigating.

The Brothers have given a million dollars to advance prop 23 in California that would repeal the state’s landmark climate change legislation. Others tied closed to traditional oil and gas such as Valero Energy and Tesoro Corp are propping up the effort to kill off progress.  Story: Koch Industries Donates $1 Million To Kill California Climate Law. By Brendan DeMelle. Huffington Post.

– – – –

Added. Article about Koch Industries.The company was started in 1927 by Fred Koch, a charter member of the John Birch Society, with an oil delivery business in Texas.”

More on the long reach of the Koch Brothers. Is Nova Catering to Its Anti-Science Sugar Daddy? 09/08/2010 by Jim Naureckas. FAIR. It’s about the program NOVA and David Koch.

Lone, lovelorn wolverine baffles scientists

How did a (probable) Idaho wolverine end up in the Sierra of California?

Lone, lovelorn wolverine baffles scientists. By Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer

Senator Feinstein to introduce bills for 2 new national monuments in Mojave Desert

Mojave Trails National Monument would protect 941,000 acres of public land. 314,000 acres of existing ORV areas would also be protected-

The article says environmentalists, hunters, and off-roaders support the legislation. Part of these areas had been targeted for big solar power developments.

The total list is: Mojave Trails NM, 941,000 acres; Sand to Snow National Monument, 134,000 acres; 250,000 acres near Ft Irwin as Wilderness; 41,000 acres to the southern boundary of Death Valley National Park; 2,900 acres to northern portions of Joshua Tree National Park.

Story on Feinstein’s bill. By Louis Sahagun. LA Times.

Update 12-22-09

A more detailed article on the politics and economics of the bills. Desert Vistas vs. Solar Power. By Tom Woody.  New York Times.

I think Feinstein’s bill is very good in directing solar farms into appropriate locations. Without her kind of “NIMBYism,” developers of big projects will just naturally gravitate toward pristine public lands because it makes their land-intensive projects cheaper by means of an indirect subsidy. Now they are more likely to seek out sunny derelict lands already destroyed by cattle or some other passing harmful use.

Geothermal Project in California Is abruptly abandoned

It caused earthquakes!

Geothermal Project in California Is Shut Down. By James Glanz. New York Times.

The person who emailed this story to me wrote, “Boy – If you’ve ever read a geothermal EA to destroy the nearest hot springs  – BLM never says anything about the earthquakes …”

– – – – –
I have been skeptical of geothermal energy using hot springs and geothermal anomalies, which this seems to have been. No hot spring seems safe, nor even Yellowstone Park when there is a boomlet for geothermal power.

Spontaneous combustion of manure at ranch starts big California fire

These self-starting manure fires are apparently all too common Southern California when it gets hot-

Well . . . another negative side effect of ranching!  Oh, and the location of the ranch where the fire began was kept a secret.

Story in the LA Times.

Disputed Solar Energy Project in California Desert Is Dropped

BrightSource Energy drops project in marvelous desert valley with bighorn sheep-

Disputed Solar Energy Project in California Desert Is Dropped. By Elisabeth Rosenthal. New York Times.

This had been a great Mohave Desert controversy, prompting Senator Feinstein to propose the area as a national monument instead. BrightSource says they are now looking for new site somewhere.