TOPIC: Bureau of Land Management

Mountaintop mining: When government agencies need to be aggressive

More and more authoritative scientific studies are saying — categorically — that mountaintop mining is dangerous to people’s health and the environment, and Allen Hershkowitz at NRDC is calling for the government to take action.  He calls for the National Research Council to look at these reports and issue its own opinion.  Until that happens, he says that

the US EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Interior should implement a categorical moratorium on the issuance of new permits, regardless of a mine’s size or location.

If mountaintop mining is stopped, it will inevitably be called a sign of “aggressive government action.”  On the other hand, stopping private companies from severing mountains in America’s last wildernesses would seem to be the perfect example of healthy conservatism.

Solar power on federal lands: destroying the desert in order to save it?

Projects designed to save the environment can end up hurting it, writes Michael Haederle in Miller-McCune.  Haederle looks at the effects of large solar arrays being built on federal land. Projects like the Palen array in California or the “world’s largest solar plant” being built by Solar Millenium, LLC in Riverside County, CA may deliver many megawatts of energy, but they also, Haederle reports, endanger desert animals and plants and threaten heritage sites treasured by Native Americans.  Of course, the public sees revenue from solar company leases of federal lands (handled by the Bureau of Land Management), but as each new alternative energy source comes on line, new problems also arise.  Greater public involvement in decision-making about these mega-projects would mean shared responsibility for the problems as well as shared benefits.

No easy way out on water issues in California

After years of admonishment about wasting water, residents of perennially dry California are watching billions of gallons of the life giving liquid roll out to sea as a prodigious rainy season draws to a close.

With irrigation districts, water districts and enviros engaged in battles spreading out across the decades, Matt Weiser 0f the Sacramento Bee wades into the battle with a primer on efforts to boost water supplies in California and the substantial hurdles these projects must clear. (more…)

Will California reach down deeper for renewable energy sources?

Tidal Farm

Less than five months after California voters strongly rejected a Republican effort to neuter the state’s commitment to renewable energy, the California legislature doubled down yesterday, advancing a bill to the governor’s desk requiring a sharp increase in the use of renewable energy. (more…)

Hope for water progress in California may be evaporating

Talks aimed at forging a compromise in California’s intractable water wars — in process for more than a decade — hit a potentially serious snag as the nation’s largest irrigation district announced it would no longer contribute to the cost of studies. (more…)

Solar heating up on California-Nevada border

Yet another major solar power plant received clearance from the US Department of the Interior yesterday, clearing the way for a $3 billion, 500-megawatt, solar-thermal plant on the Nevada side of the California-Nevada line, reports Cassandra Sweet of Dow Jones Newswires.

In contrast to photovoltaic cells, solar-thermal plants use thousands of mirrors to heat water into steam, driving a turbine. The project is being constructed by Solar Trust of America, a joint venture of two German companies, Solar Millennium AG and Ferrostaal AG. (more…)

Good day sunshine

Construction workers broke ground on a massive solar thermal power plant in the California desert near the Nevada border Wednesday, David Becker of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Scheduled to generate its first watt of electricity in 2013, the project will use thousands of billboard-sized mirrors to focus light on tanks turning water into steam to generate enough juice to power 140,000 homes. (more…)

Interior and Energy letting the sun shine in

The U.S. Interior Department approved two major solar energy projects for the California desert as developers rush to meet a federal subsidy deadline, reports Marc Lifsher of the Los Angeles Times.

The projects will be built on property administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The news comes as developers and investors in seven other projects anxiously watch the calendar. Ground must be broken by Dec. 31 to qualify for $10 billion in federal stimulus funding for clean energy projects. (more…)

Solar gold rush in California

Two German companies received the go ahead from California officials to build a massive 1,000 megawatt solar thermal electricity plant near the California-Arizona state line. The plant is only one of nine solar projects set to be considered by the end of the year. The nine planned plants would more than double the amount of electricity derived from the sun in the US, reports Cassandra Sweet of Dow Jones Newswires. The plans now to the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management for further study.

Generous matching funds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the federal stimulus, has set off something of a gold rush (more…)

BLM to monitor off-road races more closely

Federal officials said there would be more supervision at racing events held on public lands under the aegis of the Bureau of Land Management, this after a deadly crash at an off-road race last month in the California desert killed eight people and injured 10. (more…)