Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from Nevada
Want to know why renewable energy remains controversial, despite widespread agreement that it is vital for our future? The answer is location, location, location.
Opposition to a new “clean” energy project near Searchlight is coming from an unlikely source — environmentalists.
According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Las Vegas Field Office, the agency is now in the process of closing the application for the project, 18 months after a federal judge voided the federal approvals for the project because of the likely harm to desert tortoises and golden eagles.
On February 3, 2015, Judge Du had ordered BLM to prepare a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on eagles due to inadequate surveys. In 2011, surveys funded by BLM found twenty-eight golden eagle nests within 10 miles of the project site, many more than the three nests the developer reported in its flawed avian surveys.
In April, attorneys filed in U.S. District Court of Nevada a lawsuit (Searchlight suit) accusing former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar of acting in “a manner that is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law” when he granted permission for construction of an 87-turbine wind farm east of Searchlight on 19,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land. The suit alleges the Final Environmental Impact Statement, on which Salazar based his approval, was written by consultants for Searchlight Wind Energy, which is owned by Duke Energy. The suit says the FEIS is a one-sided and an incomplete portrait of the project’s adverse environmental impacts.
Earlier this month, attorneys filed in U.S. District Court of Nevada what we will call for the sake of brevity Bundorf v. Salazar. (Searchlight wind suit) The suit accuses former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar of acting in "a manner that is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law" when he granted permission for construction of an 87-turbine wind farm east of Searchlight on 19,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land.
The 30-page complaint says that the environmental impact statement (EIS) "presents a one-sided and incomplete portrait of the proposed project and its likely adverse environmental impacts." "The Project would pose significant adverse harm to a wide array of sensitive and protected species -- including desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, golden eagles, bald eagles, and resident and migratory birds and bats -- through direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts."
Plaintiffs charge that the project, to be built by Duke Energy, would (in the words of the suit) "pose significant adverse harm to a wide array of sensitive and protected species ... including desert tortoise, golden eagles, bald eagles, and residential and migratory birds and bats... through direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts" which weren't adequately addressed.
Environmentalists and three Nevada residents are suing the Interior Department over its approval of the Searchlight Wind Energy Project, arguing the wind farm would sit in an area of the Mojave Desert that would cause widespread damage to sensitive wildlife habitat.
The wind farm and its transmission lines "will dominate the Searchlight desert and mountains," and the turbines, "with spinning blades that reach as high as the top of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas," will ruin the area for visitors, residents and businesses, the complaint stated, as well as cause "significant harm" to an array of animals through "direct, indirect and cumulative impacts."
Environmental groups and residents of Nevada have filed a complaint in U.S. District Court of Nevada challenging the Department of the Interior's permit granting Duke Energy permission to construct an 87-turbine wind energy facility east of Searchlight on 19,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land. Excerpts of the complaint are provided below. The plaintiffs argue that Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar acted in a manner that was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law. The full complaint can be accessed by clicking on the link(s) at the bottom of this page.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is conducting an investigation after a golden eagle was killed in late February at the Spring Valley Wind Farm, about 300 miles north of Las Vegas. ...the wind farm could face a fine of up to $200,000 because it does not hold a federal "take" permit that would allow the incidental death of a golden or bald eagle. Stafford said the matter is under investigation by the service's Office of Law Enforcement.
Already a dead Golden eagle was found on February 25 at a wind turbine generator in the Spring Valley, a place with a dense population of eagles. Those who knew thae area had predicted eagle mortality was likely, but no one thought it would be so soon after the project was completed.
Conservation, labor and American Indian groups are challenging the projects on environmental grounds. The lawsuits, coupled with a broad plunge in prices for energy from competing power sources, threaten the ability of developers to secure expiring federal loan guarantees and private financing to establish the projects.
"Despite very significant and unknown environmental and cultural impacts, and against the advice of several sister agencies and its own personnel, BLM refused to conduct the full environmental analysis required by the National Environmental Policy Act. Instead, under pressure from high-level BLM officials and the industry proponent, BLM rushed through a short-cut analysis."
Some environmentalists are breaking ranks and fighting the solar industry. The problem, as they see it, is that tens of thousands of acres of mostly pristine desert is slated for bulldozing to accommodate utility-scale solar power plants in Nevada and across the Southwest. ...Renewable energy developers have long been the darlings of environmental groups, but Saturday's event highlights a growing rift within those groups.
Silver City residents expressed mixed reactions after learning recently of a proposed wind turbine project for the nearby ridge lines. Residents weighed the greenness of wind power with the amount of visual pollution that the tall towering structures could bring to the popular 1860s-era tourist destination communities in the Comstock Historic District, which is also designated a National Historic District. The proposed project would also affect the views of people living in Washoe Valley. Great Basin Wind, LLC's new Comstock project was discussed during the September Silver City Town Board meeting's public comment segment.
When power developers announced plans for coal plants in the Nevada desert, it was clear which side conservation groups would be on: the opposition. Less clear was how they would react when solar developers announced they would build huge arrays in that same desert. Because although renewable energy is the darling of the environmental movement - hailed as a cure for our addiction to fossil fuels - solar and other clean power plants can still be hard on the birds and bunnies trying to survive in their shadows. "Just because it's green doesn't mean ... it doesn't have impacts," said Kathleen Drakulich, a Nevada attorney with clients who develop renewable energy and more traditional fossil fuel power plants.
The fate of basic industries across the Intermountain West -- grazing, mining, energy -- soon could be at least partially tied to that of a bird about the size of a chicken. The federal government is under a judge's order to reconsider an earlier decision against listing the sage grouse as endangered, and wildlife biologists are scouring the species' customary mating grounds to see how many are left. The species was seen as recently as 2004 over an area as large as California and Texas combined, but its habitat used to be close to twice that and research has shown that many types of human activity continue to harm it. ...''It will affect everything we do and know (as) a Western state, everything from livestock grazing to mining to development of sage brush habitat, wind energy,'' said Ken Mayer, director of the Nevada wildlife department. ''I don't think we have ever been in this position before.''
As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gets ready to re-examine whether the greater sage grouse needs federal protection, Espinosa and other state wildlife biologists across the West are frantically looking for the bird and the traditional mating grounds known as leks where they have lived for centuries _ or, increasingly, where they used to live. ..."It has been quite simply amazing the amount of habitat we have lost in just the last two years, particularly in the northeast part of the state," said Espinosa of the Nevada Department of Wildlife. ...whether the federal government concludes the grouse needs protection is "a huge decision." "It will affect everything we do and know (as) a Western state, everything from livestock grazing to mining to development of sage brush habitat, wind energy, transmission lines," he said.