Wednesday, June 15, 2011

“DAMN THE TORTOISES! FULL SPEED AHEAD!”- the backporch take on the letter to Congress in favor of energy development on public lands from the NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Wilderness Society.

The above organizations by this letter seem to be cruising for a bruising, here on the backporch, we are always happy to oblige. Keep reading for my views on the issues presented in their letter, a view which may differ from others concerned with the issue, so be it. Below is an example from the letter.

Most importantly, we have learned that a strategic and coordinated approach to
designing energy generation and transmission at the beginning stages of project planning not only
facilitates energy development, but also help preserve the rich natural and cultural heritage that
our public lands provide.”
The above sentence is from the letter to Congress as is enough to make this blogger throw up, it also
however helps make my point as you will see below. Morongobill
 

The newslink is here. You can download the letter in pdf file format here.

Or you can read the letter to the House Committee on Natural Resources below in its’ entirety(converted into a text file and pasted into this page) below
as kindly done by my new associate, Senor Tortuga, who has a vested interest in all this. Feel free to search this site for “senor tortuga” to understand what I am talking about.

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May 26, 2011

The Honorable Doc Hastings
Chairman, House Committee on Natural Resources
1324 Longworth House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20215

The Honorable Edward Markey
Ranking Member, House Committee on Natural Resources
1329 Longworth House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20215

Dear Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Markey:

On   behalf   of   the   Natural   Resources   Defense   Council,  The   Wilderness   Society,    and   Defenders   of
Wildlife   we   are   writing   to   express   our   strong   support   for   renewable   energy   development   on   the
public lands.    Our collective organizations believe that this nation must embrace renewable energy
as a paramount strategy in order to reduce global warming pollution and increase economic and
job growth, while also ensuring energy security.            We also want to share with the Members of this
Committee our experience that the application of consistent environmental review in concert with
a thoughtful planning process are essential elements in successfully deploying renewable energy to
scale.    Meeting  our  country’s  energy  needs  with  clean  renewable  energy  requires  significant 
investments that must be undertaken immediately, but these investments must not jeopardize and
devalue our nation’s commitment to conserve this country’s incomparable natural heritage.

In a dramatically short time, our nation has seen the unprecedented expansion of wind, solar, and
geothermal generation across the land.           Over the last two years, during one of the worst economic
crises  of  recent   history,   the   installed   capacity   of   wind   generated   energy   in   this   country   grew   by
60%.    Much   of   the   growth  —  present,   past,   and   future  —  has  or  will  take  place  on  the  nation’s 
resource rich public lands.       This is represented by the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) pledge to
establish an enduring commitment to tap renewable energy resources, especially as compared to
those   of   previous   administrations.    In   just   two   years,   DOI   has   permitted   more   renewable   energy
projects than ever before, with many additional projects proposed for development on public lands
for   2011   and   2012.  The   figure   below   displays   the   magnitude   of   this   increase   over   the   last   two
years.   In   2010   alone,   nine   solar   energy   projects,   one   wind   project,   and   two   geothermal   projects
were permitted on public lands in the West, for a combined capacity of nearly 4,000 megawatts of
power.    We are supportive of the effort to transition to a renewable energy future, and commend
the   Bureau   of   Land   Management   (BLM)   for   the   unprecedented   effort   to   permit   utility-scale   solar
and wind projects in CA and Nevada in 2010.            We will continue to work cooperatively with the BLM
and   other  federal, state  and   local   agencies   in seeking   opportunities for   renewable   energy   project
development that are appropriately located in the right   areas (including on lands that have been

                                                                                                                      1

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previously       disturbed     lands    such    as  brownfields),      environmentally        sustainable      and   do    not
undermine our efforts to conserve wildlife and natural resources.

But after years of inattention and inactivity, we must consider that renewable energy permits are
being evaluated and reviewed by a BLM system that was not originally conceived for these types of
technologies       in   mind.      This   makes     environmental        laws,    including    especially     the   National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), indispensable to ensure that projects are built in a manner that
maximizes   their   energy   potential   while   avoiding   impacts   that   would   undermine   the   viability   of
sensitive   environmental   resources.         As   40   years   of   experience   has   demonstrated,   NEPA   provides
the   tools   to   ensure   that   decisions   on   federally   funded   or   authorized   projects   are   made   with   the
highest     quality   information      on  a  range    of  alternatives    and   with    public   input   from    concerned
individuals      and   affected    communities.       Rather      than   being    a  hindrance     to   development,       our
experience      in  working     with   developers,     utilities,  financiers,   and    the  federal   agencies     on  these
projects, is that NEPA provides an essential blueprint to guide the approval process.                        In fact, NEPA
ensures      that  these   renewable      energy    projects    are   stronger,    more    resilient,  and    less  likely  to
experience delays later in the process.

Furthermore,        early   stakeholder     engagement       established     through     the  NEPA     process    saves    the
government money by identifying resource conflicts early, which leads to fully informed decisions.
The   only   way   to   secure   the   successful   deployment   of   clean   renewable   energy   is   to   ensure   that
projects   proposed   in   the   future   are   as   efficient,   cost   effective,   and   environmentally   attuned   as
possible.    A   robust   planning   and   permitting   process   is   the   key   to   guarantee   that   this   can   come
about.

                                                                                                                             2

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Unfortunately, those interests long-opposed to NEPA are hiding behind the public’s overwhelming
support for clean, renewable energy in an attempt to shortcut, shortchange, or scuttle NEPA’s core 
provisions.    They put forth a false choice of either protecting our public lands or building renewable
energy quickly.      More specifically, the charge has been made that the NEPA review process, along
with   other   environmental   requirements,  are   restricting   the   pace   and   advancement   of   renewable
energy projects.     We know that this is not true; of the nine solar energy projects permitted in 2010,
the average time for environmental review was 527 days, or 1.4 years.                   The most recent permitting
for renewable projects that received  BLM’s “fast-track” status took an average of 423 days, or 1.1 
years   to   reach   a   final   record   of   decision. This   is   well   within  other   permitting   time   frames   for
similarly sized projects, consistent with the timetables set out in government guidance documents,
and is remarkable given that these projects are unique in scale and complexity.

We agree with you, though, in that the subject of today’s hearing is critically important as we have 
indeed seen actual “roadblocks” that prevent more solar, geothermal, and wind projects to proceed
or   move at  a   quicker   pace,  namely, uncertainty in financing  and  first-of-a-kind   technology at   this
scale.  One of these factors is the uncertainty that exists around the prospective status concerning
federally backed   financial   incentives   critically   necessary   to   ensure   that   this  nascent   industry  can
compete   domestically.       For   example,   the   Ivanpah   Solar   Electric   Generating   System   and   the   Blue
Mountain Geothermal project received renewable energy loan guarantees from the Department of
Energy   that   were   critical   to   their   successful   permitting. Development   of   utility-scale   renewable
energy     projects   will   benefit   greatly  from     predictable    and    consistent    governmentally       backed
incentives that put them on a level playing field with other more mature energy sources.

Our     conservation     organizations      understand     these    critical  needs,    and  to   that   end  we    have
aggressively supported financial and tax incentives that would secure a predictable growth path for
renewables.  Among these programs and incentives, we have supported:

              Extensions of production and investment tax credits;
              Extension of the highly successful 1603 Treasury Grant Program;
              Legislation such as the “10 Million Solar Roofs and 10 Million Gallons of Solar Water 
              Heating Act of 2010;”
              The Department of Energy’s Section 1705 Loan Guarantee Program;
              Test facilities to ensure a transition to commercial scale;
              Measures to improve planning and avoid speculative permit applications; and
              Multiple pieces of legislation to address the backlog in permits.

                                                                                                                        3

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We have learned a great deal from our past experiences with conventional and renewable energy
development.      Most   importantly,   we   have   learned   that   a   strategic   and   coordinated   approach   to
designing energy generation and transmission at the beginning stages of project planning not only
facilitates   energy   development,   but   also   help   preserve   the   rich   natural   and   cultural   heritage   that
our public lands provide.     If we are to reach our common goal of successfully and efficiently meeting
our country’s energy needs with clean renewable energy, we must focus our attention on the true
barriers   to   renewable energy   deployment,  such   as  financing and   technology.       By committing   to  a
framework   that   includes   thoughtful   planning   and   siting   processes,   we   can   conserve  our  nation’s 
natural    treasures   while   also  enjoying   the  considerable     benefits  associated    with  a  new   energy
economy that is predicated upon the utilization of clean renewable energy.

Our organizations are fully committed to working with you on these timely issues and appreciate
your strong leadership in this regard.  Thank you for your consideration of this statement.

Johanna Wald
Western Renewable Energy Project
Natural Resources Defense Council

Pamela Pride Eaton
Deputy Vice President, Public Lands
The Wilderness Society

Jim Lyons
Senior Director for Renewable Energy
Defenders of Wildlife

                                                                                                                   4
End of quoted letter text.

Warning strong language may follow as I offer my analysis of the above
exercise in bullshit and obfuscation.

My very first visceral reaction is to the use of that beloved word, at least to me,
conservation, as in conservation organizations used to describe themselves. Granted, the NRDC has spent millions of dollars making their Santa Monica headquarters building a state-of-the-art energy conserving building, but that goodwill only goes so far when you link that action with their actions to encourage the building of the Ivanpah SEGS, which singlehandedly will result in the death of at least 1,000+ desert tortoises, an endangered species.

Need I remind you readers that Johanna Wald who signed this letter on behalf of the NRDC, along with her old buddy Carl Zichella formerly of the Sierra Club and now also with the NRDC, were in from the very beginning helping formulate the rules which setup these energy developments on public land,
especially as it pertained to the California Energy Commission, which permits those projects?

As you just read here the other day, the Ivanpah project construction has been given the green light to proceed by the BLM and only Western Watershed’s
lawsuit stands in the way to prevent total buildout of the project, a slim straw to grasp and hold onto as the last barrier to total environmental destruction of the Ivanpah Valley.

I am sure all of you after reading the above letter has no doubt where these
”conservation organizations” stand as pertaining to energy development on
public lands----- their attitude could be restated as follows:

Damn the tortoises! Full speed ahead!

Some reading this missive may feel that I am being unfair to these groups as
usual, or that perhaps being a bus driver, I might not have enough savvy or
intellectual ability to understand all the various machinations going on in the
energy development arena, etc etc- all to which, I say:

In my humble opinion, these groups are no more conservation groups
than Joe Biden is an expert on what is or isn’t government waste.

These groups have bought into the carbonmentalism movement hook, line, and sinker. There is no talking to them, they aren’t listening, they
have become so full of themselves, so inflated with self importance, that
they are willing to sacrifice Ivanpah, or any other wildplace, if it will slake
their lust for carbon reduction!
These groups are no more conservationist
than the corporations they go to on bended knee for the donations needed to
keep up their “good works.”

They may have some of you fooled, but not me. These guys are about as phony as a 3$ bill, in my view. Take NEPA for example. My how they wax so
eloquently in the above letter about how glorious NEPA is and how blah,blah,blah- the truth of the matter, at least in my opinion, is that their actions have probably done more to weaken the NEPA statute than a platoon of right wingers and their attorneys could have accomplished, even if the Koch
brothers had funded the effort. Same with their comments about the length of the environmental review, start with a flawed system and follow it, why be
surprised when there is a flawed outcome?

I am sure a third reading will yield other laughable, absurd statements, but these will do for now.

Lest anyone think that I am speaking otherwise, I am writing this as my opinion
of what is going on here. I am not speaking for anyone else, nor do I have any reason to hold back- I ain’t buddies with any of the above folks mentioned, and to be brutally honest, if I met them at a cocktail party, an interesting conversation, possibly to the other guests, might occur which might have some colorful or obscene language in it. That’s how strongly this blogger feels about where the deserts and wilderness may be going, thanks to conservation groups like the above.

Speaking of Biden, the above reference was to his comments on the White House blog, where he talked about what a waste it was for the government to have a website up devoted to the desert tortoise, among other things. By the way folks, evidently it costs around $125 per year to keep the site up. Contrast that to the $1.3 BILLION + the government gave to BrightSource Energy to build Ivanpah, causing the direct deaths of 1,000+ tortoises as predicted by the Fish and Wildlife biological report--------

Note to Joe Biden. How about you go back to stealing borrowing other politician’s speeches and calling them your own, and leave the poor desert tortoise alone. This blogger thinks you and the president have done quite enough to them already, you dig?

I swear these politicians think we elected them God or something.

Who knows, the illustrious carbonmentalist of the year, Alexis de la Madrigal over at the Atlantic may weigh in next on the Biden comments or on the above letter- I am sure we are all waiting most anxiously for that magazine issue to come out- great material for use in the outhouse, if you catch my drift. Why waste the Sears catalogue?

The above is an inside joke for the benefit of my long time blog readers, search
Madrigal on the sidebar, to get in on it.

That’s it, I can’t take another minute of this whole situation of the noted conservation groups and their attitudes toward the desert.

I think I’m about to hurl.

Morongobill

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