Center for Biological Diversity Statement on Interior Secretary Salazar’s Plan to Fast-track Solar Energy Development on Public Lands

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943, ianderson@biologicaldiversity.org

Center for Biological Diversity Statement on Interior Secretary Salazar’s Plan to Fast-track Solar Energy Development on Public Lands

LOS ANGELES - The
Bureau of Land Management today released the details of a plan to facilitate
timely solar energy development on public lands, including maps delineating
more than 670,000 acres of areas in six western states that will undergo
environmental review to assess whether they should be designated as
“solar energy zones” for large-scale production of solar energy. 

“We’re glad to see the Obama
administration taking the steps necessary to help the nation transition to a
renewable energy economy as quickly as possible,” said Ileene Anderson,
biologist and public lands deserts director at the Center. “In
identifying the solar energy zones, the Bureau should start with areas that are
already disturbed or immediately adjacent to degraded private lands, or near
existing infrastructure and wastewater sources, and avoid impacts to threatened
and endangered species, sensitive environmental areas, and the water that
sustains them.”

The Interior Department announced the
plan yesterday, saying it’s taking steps to accelerate permitting of
solar-energy projects on public lands by withdrawing 670,000 acres from other
uses – including from development of fossil fuels – while it
determines which areas are appropriate for solar-energy development. Through
this process, the department and Bureau will evaluate 24 specific areas with
high development potential. The agencies’ actions are informed in part by
maps generated by the Center and other environmental groups that show high
potential solar-energy development areas in the California desert.

“Based on the Center’s
experience in the California desert, it is clear that lands both public and
private are available to help move the nation to a fundamentally different
energy pathway as soon as possible – one that emphasizes the use of
renewables in addition to conservation, efficiency, and distributed generation
to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” Anderson added. “But
we have to do so in the most environmentally responsible way possible. Protection
of imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which wildlife and human
communities both depend is essential as the inevitable effects of ongoing
climate change emerge.” 

While the Interior Department’s
announcement is promising, the Obama administration has not stopped Bush-era
plans to develop coal-fired power plants on public lands in Nevada
or New Mexico,
and the Bureau has numerous large-scale coal-mining projects in the
intermountain West. Recently, Secretary Salazar announced plans to offer a second
round of leases to test technologies to develop oil shale and tar sands on 2
million acres of public lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

“Since the need to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions is clearly an impetus for this plan, the department
should also be taking steps to phase out coal development on public lands
immediately, to avoid catastrophic climate change,” said Anderson.

The Center for Biological Diversity is
dedicated to ensuring that atmospheric CO2
pollutant levels are reduced to below 350 ppm, which leading climate scientists
warn is necessary to prevent devastating climate change. Further development of
greenhouse gas-intensive energy sources is fundamentally incompatible with
achieving this goal. If greenhouse gas emissions are not immediately reduced,
the current atmospheric CO2 level of
385 ppm will rise to approximately 500 ppm by mid-century, triggering mass
wildlife extinctions, catastrophic global weather and ecosystem changes, and
tragic human suffering.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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