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.

Biologists scour Mojave in desert tortoise roundup.

What has this society come to?
Construction of the Ivanpah Solar plant starts.

Clear the land of life for power generation that could be achieved by installing solar panels on rooftops where it is used. The bulldozers, fences, and powerlines are next.

The science shows that half of these endangered desert tortoises will die and an equal number of the tortoises that will be displaced but the moved tortoises will die as well. It’s all a charade under the guise of GREEN ENERGY that is being greenwashed by many of the big “conservation” groups.

Other alternatives were never examined because that would get in the way of the profits of those big power companies who will profit at the expense of the taxpayers and more importantly habitat and wildlife. There is a playa just across the freeway where Bob Abbey, the director of the BLM, likes to landsail. It was never considered as an alternative site.

The effort in San Bernardino County’s panoramic Ivanpah Valley, just north of Interstate 15 and about 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas, disrupted complex tortoise social networks and blood lines linked for centuries by dusty trails, shelters and hibernation burrows.

Biologists scour Mojave in desert tortoise roundup
Los Angeles Times

Biomass Energy Juggernaut Threatens Human and Forest Health

George Wuerthner challenges biomass energy.

If biomass energy production were fully implemented, it would become the single largest human impact to land in the country, requiring the near full utilization of all the U.S. forests and much of its agricultural lands for fuel production, contributing to what one TNC scientist has termed “energy sprawl.”

Biomass Energy Juggernaut Threatens Human and Forest Health.
George Wuerthner – New West

Federal Agencies Sign Agreement to Protect Sage-Grouse Habitat

But they continue to ignore the biggest threat to their habitat……….. GRAZING.
$16 million in handouts for this year alone.

Sage grouse tracks © Katie Fite

The NRCS is handing out more money to ranchers for “habitat conservation” or “habitat improvement” projects that maintain grazing on public lands.

There are some projects such as fence removal that will be funded but the proposed seeding projects may require new fencing to keep livestock out for measly the 2 years they recommend and in some circumstances they call for applying herbicides to restrict the growth of sagebrush so that the seedlings can get a foothold.

So many times we’ve seen that these kinds of projects are co-opted by the livestock industry to be of more benefit to them rather than the values the funding was made available for. I doubt this will be any exception since they have made a concerted effort to deny that livestock have any role in sage-grouse habitat destruction.

Read the rest of this entry »

Washington State biologist accused of steering donations to his nonprofit organization

Alleged actions are a violation of state law.

“A state ethics board alleges that William Weiler repeatedly used his position as a state biologist involved in permitting wind-power projects in Southwest Washington to influence turbine developers to donate money to the Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute, a nonprofit that he led.”

State biologist accused of steering donations to his nonprofit organization
By Hal Bernton – Seattle Times staff reporter

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Environmentalists make plea for desert preservation

A group of environmentalists says renewable energy goal shouldn’t come with destruction of native plant, animal life

Sunset © Ken Cole

The Ivanpah Solar site lies on public lands in the center of very important desert tortoise habitat so the company proposes to move those tortoise to a new area before construction begins. This is a strategy that has been tried in the past that resulted in utter failure. Even the environmental impact statement acknowledges that one in six will die after being moved.

Renewable energy is important, but where it is placed matters. Is it right to be placing these giant wind and solar power projects and the additional power lines on vast swaths of public lands that are important habitat areas for many imperiled species or would it be better to place the power generation where it will be used? Rooftop solar is a viable alternative with the prices of solar panels dropping. Simply using the heat of the sun to heat homes and water results in significant energy savings. Do we need more power? Do we need to destroy our public lands when a more distributed model of energy production is possible?

Environmentalists make plea for desert preservation
Las Vegas Sun