News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Architect of Public Lands Solar Policy to Leave Interior

Deputy Interior Secretary David J. Hayes | Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior

Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes, who's generally credited with drafting the U.S. Interior Department's massive expansion of renewable energy development on public lands since 2009, will be leaving his post for a job at Stanford University.

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Hayes announced his resignation on April 30, and will be leaving his post at the end of June.

As second-in-command at Interior, Hayes oversaw the implementation of Interior's development of programs such as the Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) and its fast-tracking of wind energy developments on public lands. Hayes was mentioned on a number of short-lists as a potential replacement for departing Secretary Ken Salazar in the weeks before the Obama Administration announced it would nominate Sally Jewell, but his east coast origins -- Hayes was born in Upstate New York -- counted against his being chosen for a position traditionally filled by a Westerner.

In addition to his work to promote industrial renewables on public lands, Hayes also oversaw Interior Department involvement on a number of Native issues and on Arctic energy exploration and development.

In response to Hayes' announcement President Barack Obama praised the Deputy Secretary in a statement, which read in part:

David's leadership at the Department of the Interior has played an important role in my administration's efforts to expand domestic energy production, including renewable energy as well as America's oil and natural gas resources. His expertise has helped shape our approach to conservation and our efforts to combat climate change, and as the Chair of the interagency working group on energy development in Alaska he has ensured that decisions we make regarding the Arctic are based on the best science. I am also grateful for David's work to help usher in important water rights and legal settlements that will help restore trust and strengthen our relationship with Indian country.

This isn't the first time Hayes has served as Deputy Interior Secretary: he held the post during the Clinton Administration under Secretary Bruce Babbit, and was closely involved in the Department's role in acquiring and protecting the Headwaters Forest Preserve east of Arcata.

But it's in the Solar PEIS that Hayes will likely find his most dramatic impact on public lands. Mainly crafted by the Bureau of Land Management under Hayes' direct supervision, the PEIS streamlines utility-scale solar development on 285,000 acres of public lands designated as "Solar Energy Zones" in California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, and offers up an additional 19 millon acres in those states as "variance areas," available for solar development without quite as much procedural corner-cutting.

Hayes will be heading for a teaching position at Stanford University's Law School, and will also join the Silicon-Valley-based Hewlett Foundation as a Senior Fellow. Hayes will very likely find the Hewlett Foundation simpatico: the foundation gave major support over the past few years to non-profits working to promote -- in Hewlett's words -- "plans for responsible solar development on public lands." (That's foundation-speak for the Solar PEIS.)

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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Surprisingly, Mr. Hayes' work as a lobbyist for Big Energy mercenaries Sempra and San Diego Gas and Electric continued apace in his work at DOI as an unregistered lobbyist for multiple Big Energy mercenaries working diligently to pillage previously healthy multiple use public lands and all manner of public coffers while our rooftops sprawl and bake without any solar panels.

It's no coincidence that the awful multi-billion dollar unneeded (and GHG spewing) "Sunrise Powerlink" was shoved down the throats of CA ratepayers and SD county residents by Hayes in his SDG+E lobbying position, then all the projects (woops, including many Sempra/SDG+E ones) that will profit from ratepayers' massive massive Big Energy subsidies, were then shoved through by Hayes in his (marginally) new post at DOI.

What's next? A series of Law Review Articles, White Papers, Op-Eds and lectures supporting these same Big Energy mercenaries dismantling the few environmental laws left on the books so that his buddies can decimate even more wilderness and heat the planet even more while getting greenwashed and paid (and paid and paid)? Bet on it.