Bush BLM: We don’t need no stinkin’ solar on federal lands

stop-sign.jpgIn a parting shot at the competition for its fossil fuels supporters, the uber-lame (duck) Bush administration “has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.”

  • Drilling for oil and gas, even in pristine areas — hey, we’re former oil company executives.
  • Leveling mountains in beautiful West Virginia — we’re all for it.
  • Toxic metals from mining — bring ’em on!
  • Logging old-growth forests — what so you think forests are for?

But solar power on publicly owned desert land? We need to study that for two years. Wouldn’t want to risk a rush to clean energy. As Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, this is “the wrong signal to send to solar power developers, and to Nevadans and Westerners who need and want clean, affordable sun-powered electricity soon.”

The only upside of this lame last-minute attack on renewables is that it can be overturned on January 21.

29 Responses to Bush BLM: We don’t need no stinkin’ solar on federal lands

  1. jcwinnie says:

    Whoa! Big news, there, Chief Joseph. Rather than lead, Dubya wants to study the issue some more. Radical departure from previous strategy, hm?

  2. paulm says:

    Its good to have a plan, but this is unbelievable… well, not really! Time for theses guys to go.

  3. claimjmpr says:

    Seriously could it get any worse? Ay yuy yoy… A friend of mine says its just a matter of time before the oil guys show up on his land and start drilling and there’s nothing he can do about it!

  4. Dano says:

    Lord! save us from outrage fatigue!



  5. Joe says:

    Dano — Every time you think you’ve seen it all, they top themselves!

  6. David B. Benson says:

    Well, an EIS is required by law.

  7. Dano says:

    Joe, I have a countdown on one of my main iGoogle pages – it’s not moving fast enough…

    The sheer brazenness of it all. Any supporters left in January must be the hopeless fraction of the population.



  8. Rick says:

    I guess those photovoltaic cells cause too much noise pollution.

    I suppose the only saving grace will be when the renewable economy is in swing 40 years from now and school children read and reflect on the scheer lunacy that was produced in the first 7 years of the 21st century.

  9. Paul K says:

    Roads, buildings, transmission lines, sanitary facilities, for example, all have an environmental impact.

  10. Earl Killian says:

    Paul K, you seem oblivious to the point that Joe made. Roads etc. are OK for mountain top removal, but not for solar.

  11. Paul K says:

    Talk to Senator Byrd about mountain top removal. Apparently they have already filed the proper EIS. I understood Joe’s point. Bush is a planet destroyer for following the laws progressives demanded.

  12. John Mashey says:

    While nothing would surprise me, I read what the BLM actually wrote, and it doesn’t seem completely irrational [given how government bureaucracy actually works], although hardly optimal.

    it starts:
    “In Executive Order 13212, Actions to Expedite Energy-Related Projects, the President ordered that executive departments and agencies take appropriate actions “to expedite projects that will increase the production, transmission, or conservation of energy.””

    “The intention of the PEIS is not to eliminate the need for site-specific environmental review for individual utility-scale solar energy development proposals. Site-specific environmental reviews are expected to be tiered to the PEIS and to be more effective and efficient because of the PEIS. Existing solar energy right-of-way applications will continue sto be processed by the BLM on a site-specific, case-by-case basis. As of the date of publication of this Notice, no new solar energy right-of-way applications will be accepted by the BLM until completion of the PEIS.”

    So, I read that (and other stuff) as:
    a) BLM has had a large uptick of proposals, and EIS’s are indeed necessary.
    b) They probably haven’t had their budget increased to hire more people to evaluate the proposals. [see below; the BLM may have in effect been handed an unfudned mandate.]
    c) They say continue to work on existing proposals, they just can’t accept any more right now. Somebody should ask how much more budget they need.
    d) They think it would be more efficient to create general guidelines, and that this would save work in the case-by-case analysis. They’re probably right.

    It is issued by:
    Alexander A. Karsner, Assistant Secretary, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy.

    Maybe Joe knows him and has an opinion; I’ve heard Karsner talk, and he seemed reasonable.
    In fact, all of this *seems* quite reasonable, and if I were in government, with an existing budget, I’d think I were doing something useful, i.e., making studies more efficient.

    One weird thing was:
    ““Reclamation is another big issue,” Ms. Resseguie said. “These plants potentially have a 20- to 30-year life span. How to restore that land is a big question for us.””

    Having selected a site and built transmission from it, why would anyone reclaim that land? Anyone in their right mind would repair and replace units.

    OF COURSE, If someone were serious about EXEC ORDER 13212, it would include “and we wish a supplementary budget item of a few $M to give BLM additional staff immediately to accelerate processing applications faster.” Supplmentary budget is found for other thigns actually deemed important.

  13. Paul K says:

    Another knee – jerk Bush bash shot down. The current process is bogged down. A better process is sought. No negative impact on current applications of which they have more than they can handle. Deployment expedited not delayed.

    John Mashey,
    Don’t blame you for being suspicious. When I hear the word expedite from a government official, I can’t help thinking of all the forms I fill out to comply with the paperwork reduction act.

  14. Jim Eaton says:

    Although the Bush administration did lift environmental reviews for the construction of the border fence along the U.S.-Mexican border, environmental laws still remain on our public lands. BLM has been flooded with project proposals and powerline corridor plans (125 at last count). Some of these are real, and some are just speculative.

    The desert is not a wasteland. There are many important habitats for animals, plants, and migratory corridors there. BLM is required by law to consider the cumulative environmental impact of numerous development proposals. They simply are following the law. And a new administration can weigh the importance of environmental values with the need for renewable energy – not with a political philosophy in mind, but with scientific facts.

    I’m sure the environmental reviews could be expedited, but it would be foolish (and illegal) for every solar energy proposal – serious or half-baked – to be given a green light without an overall review.

    I understand the suspicion that many have that an administration that doesn’t give a fig for the environment suddenly has found religion in the desert, but regardless of their motives, this is the right course of action.

  15. John Mashey says:

    The fundamental issue is to understand who and what to criticize, so as to try to fix it.

    Many government agencies contain at least some competent, dedicated people who are trying to do good jobs within constraints of laws, budgets, and internal rules. Many are career staff, a few (heads) are appointed by the administration. Federal government bureaucracy is not naturally a lightning-quick entity.

    Staff and heads don’t always agree; smart heads listen to their staffs, but of course, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they appear to be driven entirely by Administration wishes.

    So, here’s Executive Order 13212

    Napoleon i supposed to have said:
    ‘”Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence.”
    which is true as far as it goes, but really, there are at least 4 cases:

    1) BC Benevolent, competent
    2) BI Benevolent, incompetent
    3) MC Malevolent, competent
    4) MI Malevolent, incompetent

    Generally, in a democracy, I consider policies that unbalancedly favor small interest groups too thoroughly, for too long, as malevolent)

    Finally, there is another classification:
    1) PR Public, Resourced (talk about it and mean it) (BC or MC)
    2) PN Public, Non-Resourced (talk about it, but either don’t mean it (MC), or mean it, but think talking is enough to make it happen (BI)
    3) QR Quiet, Resourced (do not talk about it, but mean it; could be BC or MC)
    4) QN Quiet, Non-Resources (well, that combination is irrelevant)

    SO, here’s Executive Order 13212, which says good words about energy, but if it actually allocates any additional resources, is unclear.

    That looks like PN, but it might be:
    BI: really want to happen, but didn’t think anything more than an edict is necessary. [This is not just a government thing, corporate CEOs sometimes make the same mistake. Sometimes, even if resources are not directly allocated, an edict can be a clear direction of intent about reworking priorities, and that indded may be enough.]

    Of course, if might be PN+MC, i.e., sounds good, no resources, understand the rules might well slow things down, want to take care of oil+coal.

    Of course, with the Bush Administration:
    – I’m having trouble finding obvious BC actions with regard to environment and non-fossil energy.

    – Certainly, there are lots of MC ones (competently executed delaying actions, like with the EPA), like pushing Mars and eliminating climate satellites.

    – If I were a fossil fuel company, I can’t think of a single real action by thsi adminsitration that I’d dislike. Maybe someone else has noticed some.

    – There are of course BI actions: I don’t think naming Michael Brown head of FEMA was malevolent, just incompetent.

    – There may even be MI actions, typified by appointing totally-incompetent, but politically reliable people into positions where they can inject politics into areas where they are not supposed to. [i.e., the most recent of which is the summer intern flap at Justice, see Esther Slater McDonald and and Michael J. Elston, but we could go back to Monica Goodling as well.]

    Anyway, it is perfectly reasonable for people to be suspicious when many Benevolent things turn out to be BN, but MC+QR actions abound, and only come to light later.

    Still, in this case, it seems like the BLM staff is trying to do their jobs, so lets not knock *them* unless there’s a good reason to.

  16. Earl Killian says:

    John Mashey, as usual has a interesting categorical analysis. Buried deep in there is his observation that there have plenty of intentional intentional malevolent Bush actions, and I for one would tend to therefore ascribe the BLM review as a delaying attempt by the White House.

    There is even a waiver that California has requested from the DOE that few have heard about that was refused and resulted in a lawsuit:
    It would have nice to have had water conserving clothes washers before California’s drought.

  17. John Mashey says:

    Earl mentions the washing machines, and there is also CA vs the DOE over utility transformers.

    A few months ago, I heard a fine talk by previous CA Attorney General, Bill Lockyer.

    He joked that his main job had seemed to be suing the Federal government over such things, leaving a full plate of them for the next AG, Jerry Brown.

    This is a long-continuing war with the DOE under Bush administration. This is definitely MC.

    CA, of course, has generally had the largest negative net balance of payments with the Federal government, i.e., we pay more than we get back. it is increasingly unclear why we do this…

  18. DWPittelli says:

    And Bush shut down the windmills off Cape Cod and in the Berkshires. Fascist!



  19. Joe says:

    Nice try, DW.

    Federal lands in the West contain vastly more solar resource than is needed to generate all of the electricity for the country without any greenhouse gases. And not Many people actually live in on those lands.

    Ultimately, we will have windmills off of Cape Cod and the Berkshires, generating relatively small amounts of power, once everyone understand how dire the climate situation is. But blocking all new solar projects on federal lands is … well, I wouldn’t use the word fascist, perhaps “consistent with his generally inane and ultimately self-destructive energy policy.”

  20. Joe,
    I think self-destructive is the perfect word…

    The sudden caring about the environmental impacts of solar development in the desert is suspect, though of course a consistent and valid environmental impact study methodology is important. Mandating dry cooling AND paying developers for the additional expense, for instance, are two common sense rules that need to be put into place in tandem.

    The fairly consistent and strong primary energy of the desert sun and the capacity to use thermal storage through CSP make it the highest quality renewable energy resource we have for the next few decades. We would be committing “climaticide” not to use it. I’ve put up this site to explain the value of CSP with storage (

    John Mashey,
    You should think about publishing on your typology…it’s very helpful!

  21. Paul K says:

    “blocking all new solar projects on federal lands is … well,”
    Joe, you continue to spread disinformation. No one is blocking solar projects on Federal lands.

  22. Joe says:

    Paul — Uhh, what are you talking about?

    The Bush BLM “has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land” for two years.

    You are really starting to worry me.

  23. Paul K says:

    Environmental Impact Statements are required by law.

    The moratorium is on new applications. From the article: “moratorium on new applications was necessary to “ensure that we are doing an adequate level of analysis of the impacts. In the meantime, bureau officials emphasized, they will continue processing the more than 130 applications received before May 29”. The current application process is slow. Even John Mashey concedes the executive order is an attempt to expedite the process.

    Let’s remember the applicants, however desirable, are corporate interests looking to make a profit on government land. Nothing but their desire to make more money prevents them from putting their projects on privately owned land.

  24. John Mashey says:

    The Wall Street Journal today has a whole section R on energy, including a page called “Cries in the dark”, profiling:
    Roscoe Bartlett, Alexander Karsner (who I mentioned earlier), James Woolsey, and Robert Hirsch.

    nuclear power, pro & con.
    Smart electric meters.
    Solar costs and trends
    the transmission issue.
    Natural gas drilling
    Hawaii experiments
    Midland Texas

    All in all, I thought it was a pretty good section. The WSJ often has fine reporting, even though OpEd lives in a different universe.

  25. Ents of Fangorn says:

    Moot point, I understand that BLM backtracked and lifted the moratorium a few days ago, so the high profits free-for-all is on once again. Why destroy our last vast wildlands, the last remaining biologically diverse in tact ecological systems of the US, when rooftops and thousands of acres of vacant, over-abused sterile ex-ag lands exist and can achieve the same goals? One word: FREE. Rooftops are free also, but corporate greed would not be able to control all the profits. The public lands, the last of earth’s wild heritage, are being offered free to corporations, to be bulldozed and obliterated forever destroyed. I read the posts in here that are outraged, because of a moratorium that only “suggests” environmental review when and EIS/review process is mandated by law. We need sensible alternative renewable energy development, not ecological devastation on a scale never seen before. It’s not green if it’s greed. It’s not green if it’s gone.

  26. Earl Killian says:

    Ents of Fangorn, the reason why investors are clamoring to situate CSP in the desert southwest is cost effectiveness. Rooftops typically don’t have the same high insolation that the Mojave and Sonoran deserts have. High insolation lowers the cents per kWh, which makes the investors more profit. Fortunately, it takes a tiny fraction of the desert southwest to power the U.S.

  27. Tom Schaffter says:

    The continuation of application processing is important, but I think the bottom line has been totally missed — the *completion* of processing, the *approval* of applications, the *actual leasing* of land:

    “Since 2005, the bureau has received more than 130 applications from private companies to build plants in those states. . . . Mr. Resch said the decision [to lift the moratorium] was important given that while the bureau managed to approve a considerable number of oil and gas leases on public land, it “had yet to lease a single acre of land to the solar industry.””

    Three years of application processing and not a single lease granted. And I’ll bet this doesn’t change while Bush is in office. His administration has delayed every significant challenge to the fossil fuel industries, to the probable catastrophic detriment of our children and grand children — more war over oil, peak oil, global warming. They will never forgive us!

  28. Get private cattle off of public land! Let the buffalo, wolves, foxes , panthers and prairie dogs live wild. And let the public enjoy their own land, not just a few crouded parks.