California Governor Jerry Brown signed a non-binding climate pact Monday with governors John Kitzhaber of Oregon and Jay Inslee of Washington, and Premier Christy Clark of British Columbia. Reaction to the pact is mixed, with the most negative reaction coming from activists opposed to the expansion of hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas in California.
And Brown didn't do much to reassure fracking opponents in his reaction to a protest outside the San Francisco headquarters of Cisco Systems, where the formal signing ceremony occurred.
"I think we ought to give science a chance before deciding on a ban on fracking," Brown told reporters after the ceremony, adding that fracking had allowed a more economical shift away from coal-fired power.
Here's another ripple from October's shutdown of the federal government: the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has pushed back the deadline for public comments on a Northern California wind project's application to be allowed to kill eagles.
EDF Renewables' Shiloh IV wind project would put 50 two-megawatt wind turbines in the lMontezuma Hills between Fairfield and Rio Vista in Solano County. EDF is seeking a programmatic eagle take permit under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) that would allow its turbines at Shiloh IV to kill an eagle a year.
Though several other wind energy projects have applied for eagle take permits, Shiloh IV is in line to be the first project granted a programmatic eagle take permit. USFWS published a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) of the permit before the shutdown, and is now extending the public comment period to make up for the 16 day period during which that Draft EA wasn't accessible to the public.
It's a compelling, heroic narrative: a Native tribe fights to close a coal plant that's poisoned its people, and builds a solar power plant next door as an alternative source of power. A city far away that's been buying coal-fired power decides to go coal-free, and agrees to buy all the power from the tribe's solar plant. The credits roll and everyone feels good.
Everyone, that is, except a threatened desert reptile that's had to move out of the way.
In spring 2013, wildlife biologists moved 157 desert tortoises, a federally listed threatened species, from the 2,000-acre footprint of the Moapa Solar power plant, being built by First Solar on the Moapa Paiute reservation in the shadow of the doomed Reid-Gardner Generating Station. Since those translocations, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at least ten tortoises have died from predation and from heat exhaustion.
The proponents of a large solar power project being considered for the California desert have suggested that they can frighten birds away from their facility effectively enough to lower the risk of wildlife injuries to acceptable levels, and they're suggesting plastic owls as part of their solution.
The suggestion came as part of the project proponent's testimony in a hearing held Thursday by the California Energy Commission concerning the proposed Palen Solar Electric Generating System, which would occupy just under 4,000 acres of open desert near Interstate 10 in Riverside County west of Blythe.
As evidence mounts that the project's mirrors and concentrated solar energy may pose risks to wild birds, Palen Solar Holdings (PSH), the joint venture backing the project, has proposed a plan to reduce bird injuries that includes what PSH calls "passive or automated visual deterrence techniques." One of those techniques, mentioned prominently in a slide show PSH provided to the CEC: plastic owls.
Here's an idea that looks like it might not catch on in California anytime soon. The Bureau of Land Management held an auction in Colorado Thursday morning to sell off solar energy rights the same way the agency auctions fossil fuel rights, but it failed miserably: no bidders showed up.
The BLM had offered three parcels in the sunny, high-altitude San Luis Valley in southern Colorado, covering about 3,700 acres. The San Luis Valley has been incredibly attractive to solar developers in the past, with at least three solar facilities already producing power and more on the drawing board. The BLM has designated four Solar Energy Zones in the valley that cover a total of 25.5 square miles.
So you'd think a proposed auction of solar development rights in the San Luis Valley would be a draw. But no representatives of solar companies turned out to bid at Thursday's auction, and the BLM didn't receive any sealed bids from those not in attendance. "We are going to have to regroup and figure out what didn't work," the BLM's Maryanne Kurtinaitis told Mark Jaffe of the Denver Post.
The Bureau of Land Management announced Wednesday that it's extending the public comment period on a proposed desert solar project in Riverside County until November 14 to make up for October's shutdown of the federal government.
The shutdown took place right in the middle of the public comment period for the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed Palen Solar Electric Generating System, which owners BrightSource Energy and Abengoa want to build in Riverside County west of Blythe.
During the shutdown, which lasted from October 1 through October 16, the 4,117-page Draft SEIS was completely unavailable to the public because the BLM's web page for the documents was offline. As ReWire mentioned October 10, that unavailability arguably meant the BLM would be violating the law if the deadline wasn't extended.