Green energy projects face backlash across country, including from bird groups worried about wind turbines
Green energy development is facing increasing grassroots opposition nationwide over concerns regarding projects' impact on the environment and local communities.
In recent years, proponents have aggressively pushed clean energy alternatives as part of their broader goal to reach net-zero emissions and transition away from fossil fuel energy in the U.S. and abroad. But wind turbines, solar farms, hydropower projects and critical mineral production — all key parts of the clean energy push — have all faced resistance in the form of environmental lawsuits, legal petitions and local movements.
Shortly after taking office, President Biden announced a lofty goal of achieving 50% emissions reduction by 2030 and a carbon-free electric grid by 2035. Just 18% of U.S. electricity generation came from wind, solar and hydropower in 2021. Another 2% came from other renewable sources.
"Across the country, we're really running into these permitting and social acceptance challenges with a lot of these technologies," Rich Powell, the CEO of clean energy advocacy group ClearPath, told Fox News Digital in an interview.
"We've given people a lot of ways to stop things in this country," he continued. "So, given that that's the situation that folks are going to have to build in, I think we just have to be really realistic about what can be built."
The opposition to wind in Iowa is representative of issues facing wind development across the country where up to 17 times more wind deployment is required to meet U.S. net-zero emission goals.
"Our organization really wants to focus on how we go through this transition and deliberately do it in a way that does not unnecessarily impact bird populations," said Lewis Grove, the director of wind and energy at the American Bird Conservancy, a national wild bird conservation group.
"Wind turbines — they're big and they move and they're up in the sky, obviously," he told Fox News Digital. "Collisions with birds are a real concern."
The American Bird Conservancy, which predicts there will be 1.4 million annual turbine-caused bird deaths by 2030, has filed numerous lawsuits opposing wind projects and has advocated for stricter siting laws for wind developers. Grove said while the group was committed to promoting climate change solutions, it would continue using litigation as a last resort in cases where wind projects present a major threat to a local bird species.
Similarly, local fishing industry and wildlife groups have filed multiple lawsuits opposing offshore wind development. In August 2021, a group of "environmentally-concerned citizens" filed a lawsuit opposing wind development off the coast of New England over concerns it would reduce endangered whale species and fishing groups filed their own lawsuits opposing projects in Massachusetts and New York.
"Offshore wind is by far the most expensive way to get zero-emission electricity and is probably the most environmentally damaging way to do so," Dave Stevenson, the director of the Center for Energy Competitiveness at the Delaware-based free market think Caesar Rodney Institute. "It just is the worst option we could come up with."
Stevenson filed comments with the Department of the Interior last month in opposition of an offshore Maryland wind project proposal. He said more than 1,400 individuals had approached the Caesar Rodney Institute with concerns over turbine impacts on the environment and local industry.
Major industrial solar projects, like offshore and onshore wind development, has also experienced an uptick in local pushback.
In 2019, Washington D.C.-based political strategist Susan Ralston founded Citizens for Responsible Solar, a group dedicated to equipping local solar opposition efforts with resources and information. She started the group after successfully defeating an effort in her hometown of Culpeper, Virginia, blocking construction of a proposed 1,600-acre solar park.
"We raised money, we launched a traditional grassroots campaign, we did polling, signs and flyers, attended events, did a petition, videos, got people really active in going to the meetings talking with our planning commission," Ralston told Fox News Digital in an interview.
Ralston said she was motivated to start the group because many rural communities across the country are unprepared when a major energy developer proposes a solar project in their county. She said companies will also approach a local government with promises, but under-deliver while taking agriculture land out of production and destroying the environment in the process.
"How do they stand a chance against a national major utility or energy company coming in and trying to buy up their land? It's very difficult," she continued.
"There are plenty of examples where they take productive cropland out of farming production and then they masquerade these projects," Ralston said. "Not only is it not available for growing crops anymore, but now you've endangered the environment because of stormwater erosion and you're cutting down trees. If your goal is to help with the reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere, cutting down trees isn't green."
Overall, nearly 60 local municipalities nationwide have proposed moratoria on new solar development since last year, according to an NBC News report. The Solar Energy Industries Association, the nation's largest solar interest group, highlighted such restrictions as an impediment to future industry growth.
And grassroots efforts against hydropower dams and lithium mining have taken shape in the West.
"Hydropower is a green energy scam," Gary Wockner, the executive director of Save the Colorado, told Fox News Digital. "It is one of the dirtiest and environmentally-negative forms of energy that we can use to create electricity."
Save the Colorado was formed in 2015 to advocate for the protection and restoration of the Colorado River. As part of the group's work, it often opposes hydropower dams, which it argues have negative impacts on waterways, wildlife and have large carbon footprints.
In March, Save the Colorado organized a coalition of more than 130 environmental groups including Earthjustice, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, to sign a legal petition urging the Environmental Protection Agency to be more transparent about hydropower projects' environmental and emissions profile.
"There's all sorts of negative impacts to rivers, to fish, to the habitat, and to the forests along rivers," Wockner added. "The science about this has become increasingly well known in the last 20 years, especially the last 10 years, as reservoirs, and especially hydropower, can create significant greenhouse gas emissions. They can be just as dirty in some cases as a coal-fired power plant."
TOP INDUSTRY GROUP RAISES ALARM ON FUTURE OF GREEN ENERGY: 'HAS NOW BECOME A CRISIS'
In addition, Nevada, Minnesota, Alaska and other mineral-rich states have seen increasingly high-profile fights over critical mineral production.
Minerals such as lithium, cobalt, copper and nickel are vital for both clean energy and defense technologies, but are largely mined and refined abroad. Lithium mining in particular has received increased attention recently due to its importance for electric vehicle battery production.
"The only thing green about this project is the money that the corporation wants to make," said Max Wilbert, co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass, a group opposing a massive proposed lithium mine in Nevada.
"Billions of dollars are at stake here in this one mine," he continued. "And, more broadly, with the energy transition in general, we're talking trillions of dollars. That is a very powerful force."
The firm Lithium Americas proposed to mine lithium at the site years ago, but has yet to produce any due to pushback from environmentalists like Wilbert and ongoing lawsuits challenging the federal government's approval of permits.
Wilbert criticized the environmental movement for what he said is the false promise that the U.S. can maintain its level of energy use with carbon-free alternatives.
"If we want our children to have a future, we need to change course," he told Fox News Digital. The Thacker Pass lithium mine represents this bright green lie that we can have this high energy, highly-consumptive society and have a sustainable world at the same time."
"That's just not true."
Content truncated due to possible copyright. Use source link for full article.