October 19, 2009

Green energy stimulus funding collides with endangered species protections

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rita_hibbardwebIn California, green energy enthusiasts are finding themselves pitted against endangered species advocates as environmental hurdles get in the way of the state’s renewable energy goals. It’s happened elswhere in the West as well, and expect more of the same, as pressure builds to produce to produce more alternative energy.

The Los Angeles Times reports that as companies race to finalize permits and break ground by the end of next year on solar energy projects, the presence of sensitive habitat, rare plants and endangered creatures threatens to  slow or stop  some of the projects closest to securing permits.

“The development of solar-power facilities in the desert has been a top priority of the Obama administration as it seeks to ease the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and curb global warming. In addition, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has urged that the state meet one-third of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020.

Companies are racing to finalize their permits and break ground by the end of next year, which would qualify them to obtain some of the $15 billion in federal stimulus funds designated for renewable energy projects. At stake is the creation of 48,000 jobs and more than 5,300 megawatts of new energy, enough to power almost 1.8 million homes, according to federal land managers.

A similar collision occurred in southwest Washington, where the marbled murrelet, listed as endangered since 1992, got in the way of a proposed wind farm.  Like California, the wind farm project would help several counties meet state requirements to produce green energy as required under state law. In July, a scientific panel concluded that the wind turbines would harm the birds.

— Rita Hibbard

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