Desert Solar Power Plant a Risk to Air Safety, Say Pilots

Pilots are saying the Ivanpah solar facility is sending unwanted glare their way | Photo: avgeekjoe/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Pilots flying both private and commercial aircraft near Las Vegas have filed complaints abut possible unsafe conditions caused by a large solar power plant in the Mojave Desert, according to documents filed with a state agency, and Las Vegas officials are urging the plant's designer to do something about the problem.

According to a March 10 letter from the Las Vegas McCarran Airport's Planning Manager Teresa Motley, pilot complaints of unsafe glare from the tens of thousands of billboard-sized mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) have been coming in since at least August 2013, with at least one pilot saying the glare from the facility interfered with the crew's ability to scan the sky for nearby aircraft.

Officials with the Clark County Department of Aviation (CCDOA), which runs McCarran and oversees other regional airports, are urging project designer BrightSource Energy to measure glare from the facility and include its findings in the compliance reports the project's owners file monthly with the California Energy Commission (CEC).

New Study Yanks Away Glimmer of Hope on Climate Change

Bad news on the climate change front | Photo: A. Vicente/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A September paper by the world's leading body of scientists studying the effects of human activity on the world's climate suggested there was a slim chance that greenhouse gas emissions would force global warming to a smaller degree than previously suspected. But a new study yanks the rug out from under that slight bit of optimism.

The new study, published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggests that the amount of increase in global temperature for each ton of carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere may be higher than had been hoped. Climate scientists refer to this relationship as "climate sensitivity."

A report put out in September by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that it was possible that the actual amount of warming for each ton of CO2 emitted might be very low. If that were true, it would give global society a bit more time to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases before catastrophe ensued. But according to Sunday's paper, the September IPCC report failed to account for the effect of "aerosols" such as smog and fine dust, which reflect sunlight and can cause temporarily lower temperatures in parts of the world with polluted air.

Group Sues to Block New Desert Solar Projects Over Threat to Tortoises

Adult desert tortoise with four juveniles | Photo: Lake Mead NRA/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The group Defenders of Wildlife filed suit today to overturn the Interior Department's approval of two large solar projects planned for the Ivanpah Valley in the Mojave Desert south of Las Vegas, saying that the projects were approved without enough consideration of the damage they'd cause the federally Threatened desert tortoise.

The Stateline and Silver State South solar projects, which would straddle the California-Nevada line not far from the Mojave National Preserve, were approved by the Interior Department on February 19. Defenders of Wildlife had previously said it would sue Interior if the projects were approved.

According to the language in Defenders' complaint, the two projects "collectively threaten the survival of the tortoise in the Ivanpah Valley, which, in turn, poses grave risks to the survival and recovery of the entire Mojave population of the Tortoise."

Acid Fracking in the Neighborhood? South L.A. Strikes Back

Good fences don't always mean good neighbors. The angle from which you look at them is key. As seen from the street, no one would mind having this tree-lined fence in South L.A. next door:

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But if we helicopter up to a bird's eye P.O.V. on that fence, well, the neighbors might have some second thoughts.

L.A. Takes Big Step Toward Fracking Moratorium

The large crowd at today's meeting gave a joyous reaction after the L.A. City Council unanimously moved the fracking proposal forward. | Photo: Courtesy Kent Minault

The Los Angeles City Council today took the first step toward putting a stop to hydraulic fracturing and other similar drilling methods that energy companies use to extract petroleum and natural gas.

The council voted 10-0 to direct the city attorney to write an ordinance that would impose a moratorium on such activity at oil wells and fields within the city.

Council members say "unconventional" drilling practices -- often referred to as fracking, acidization, and gravel-packing -- endanger the city's water supply and increase the risk of earthquakes.

Some oil production companies operating within the city employ acidization, which uses corrosive chemicals to dissolve rock formations around oil deposits, according to city officials.

If Los Angeles's moratorium ordinance is approved, it would stay in effect until oil companies can assure that the city's water supply is safe, that the practice does not otherwise harm the environment and the companies are fully disclosing the chemicals used, according to the motion by councilmen Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin.

Fracking Waste is Being Dumped Into the Ocean Off California's Coast

Surfers play near an oil rig off the Santa Barbara coast | Photo: Peter Bo Rappmund/Flickr/Creative Commons License

ReWire has reported previously on a form of oil well enhancement in California that doesn't get much attention from the press, namely, offshore fracking. At least 12 rigs off the coast of California inject proprietary mixes of potentially dangerous chemicals into undersea rock formations at high pressure. They do this in order to break those rocks up which makes it easier to pump out the crude.

That's the process commonly known as fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing. The fluid pumped into the wells usually gets pumped back out again as wastewater. And if you suddenly have an uneasy feeling about where those offshore rigs dispose of that wastewater, you may well be correct. About half of the state's offshore rigs pump at least some of their wastewater right into the Santa Barbara Channel.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, oil rig operators have federal permits to dump more than nine billion gallons of fracking wastewater into California's ocean waters each year. That's enough wastewater to fill more than 100 stadiums the size of the Rose Bowl brim-full of toxic waste. And CBD wants the Environmental Protection Agency to do something about it.

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