Thursday, July 03, 2008

BLM calls off moratorium on solar energy

BLM’s 2-year moratorium on solar energy projects on its lands in 6 western states, including Arizona, lasted almost a week. Yesterday, in the face of widespread opposition, BLM changed its mind. [right, Abengoa's trough technology solar collectors, planned to cover 1,900 acres near Gila Bend, Arizona]

The moratorium initially was endorsed by some environmental groups concerned about large-scale industrial energy developments on federal lands with little of the oversight and public input that accompanies other types of development such as mining and petroleum. [right:

The New York Times described BLM’s 100 million acres as “empty lands” certainly giving the impression they are barren and worthless for almost any other use. That’s a far cry from many environmentalists description of federal lands as pristine and ecologically critical.

There are a reported 130 solar projects proposed across the West with little of a track record to anticipate all the potential environmental impacts. On the other hand, solar energy officials note that BLM has never permitted a single solar plant and the moratorium could be a huge blow to the fledgling industry, just when traditional energy sources such as coal-fired power plants are under increasing pressure over climate change concerns.

Should we view this as a sign of a willingness to accept some environmental consequences in order to achieve a presumed greater environmental benefit?

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