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Soda Mountain Solar Project Fails To Get Key Permits


A massive solar energy project proposed to be built within one mile of Mojave National Preserve has failed to get key permits from the San Bernardino County supervisors, who were concerned over the impacts the project would bring to the area.

This move marks a major setback for the industrial-sized solar proposal and a major victory for the broad range of individuals and organizations who have adamantly opposed to this project, considered one of the most controversial renewable energy projects in the country, said a release from the National Parks Conservation Association, which had opposed the project's siting.

The county, a co-lead agency in charge of permitting for the proposal, rejected the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) certification associated with the industrial-sized project, the group said.

“The beautiful and wildlife-rich Soda Mountain site, located less than one mile from Mojave National Preserve, now lives to fight another day, thanks to the smart decisions by San Bernardino County’s Supervisors," said David Lamfrom, director of NPCA's California Desert and Wildlife Programs. "The ever-growing list of opposition includes nearly 5,000 County residents, 50,000 national park lovers, more than 70 scientists, the National Park Service, the three closest communities to the project and chambers of commerce and tourism-related businesses across the county.

“Today, the county supervisors did what the Interior Department would not; they denied the nation’s worst renewable energy proposal. The science was clear, as were the impacts identified by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service and Interior Department-appointed advisors. This project is known to be poorly-located and the risks far outweigh the benefits.”

NPCA officials said the Soda Mountain Solar would negatively impact important habitat for desert bighorn sheep, kit foxes, burrowing owls and migratory birds. Such impacts have thus far led to an inability to secure a buyer for the energy that would be produced, they added.

In light of the supervisors’ vote, the project proponent must find an alternative, off-site source of water for the project’s construction, operation and decommission.


The Supervisors showed that they understand the value of undisturbed desert, and the indefencisble imbalance of a damaged pristine desert while the the countyu's huge roof-top acreage in the county stays naked. The board is to be congratulated in resisting the short term benefit of spending pristine desert.

Rooftop solar is a much better answer.  But until legislatures begin making such installations easier by removing blocks such as zoning regulations, that will be an uphill battle.  In many places around the country, opposition to rooftop installations is led by power and energy companies that see threats to their bottom lines.  And they have the dollars to spend on opposition.

However, Lee. California is a leader in rooftop solar. My brother installed panels on his home last year, and LOVES them. This remains a commercial boondoggle intended entirely to stick it to the taxpayers--and the public lands. Meanwhile, here's more from the good people at the Desert Protective Council.

The problem with roof top solar is that it still isn't economic without subsidies and most people still need the back-up from the electric/gas utility but are unwilling to pay the infrastructure cost.  

Alfred, there is an interesting dichotomy between those who oppose roof top solar for whatever reasons and those who have installed them and say they love them.  Many of those with whom I've talked realize it is not going to be an entirely profitable venture for a long, long time -- if ever.  But they went into it with eyes open and what might be called a pioneering spirit.  They seem to realize that someone needs to be willing to lead the way into the future.  Thank goodness we have some of those or we'd still be sitting in caves eating whatever we could kill and cook over open fires.

who oppose roof top solar

Nobody opposes roof top solar per se.  What they oppose is being forced to subsidize it or being forced to use it or forced to look at it.  

You make a good point, Lee. Whenever Americans want a subsidy for themselves, they refer to it as "the pioneering spirit." Whenever they object to a subsidy for others, they refer to it as a government giveaway. In this case, all I can say is that I am proud of San Bernardino County for rejecting the industrialization of its desert backdoor. Of course, the Environmental Impact Statement would have never held up in court. But there it is--"the pioneering spirit." To hell with the land if WE want it. You environmentalists, on the other hand, need to apologize for standing in the way of progress.

Still the amazing thing in all of this is how many environmentalists went along. On that score, my friend Daniel Botkin has a new book coming out this fall on how to responsibly locate wind and solar. It need not all go into the desert, nor should it necessarily be sited on the public lands. Why is that happening? Because scientists are not in charge--real scientists, that is. Rather developers are in charge of these gargantuan projects, and they are laughing all the way to the bank.

The book is called 25 MYTHS THAT ARE DESTROYING THE ENVIRONMENT: WHAT MANY ENVIRONMENTALISTS BELIEVE AND WHY THEY ARE WRONG. I would review it for The Traveler but I wrote the foreword, so perhaps you would be willing to take a crack at it. Just remember, unlike the media, to read it word for word. It doesn't make sense without all of the arguments, including why wind and solar need to replace--and eventually will replace--the vast majority of fossil fuels. Let's just not get carried away in the belief that we need to destroy our public lands. We don't and never did. It's just that--corporations being what they are--they know to sell us on fear rather than common sense.

Ah, Ha, Alfred, you hit the nail when you wrote: "Rather developers are in charge of these gargantuan projects, and they are laughing all the way to the bank."

And was it not "environmentalists" who managed to shoot down this attempt?  So how can environmentalists push on one had to build massive solar and wind farms while simultaneously trying to squash them?  The word "environmentalist" has lost its meaning, just as have the words "conservative" and "liberal."  If we look around, do we not see on virtually every side people and organizations decrying "subsidies" while holding their hands outstretched to receive "assistance" for whatever their pet project may be?

It's very easy to toss around labels.  So easy, in fact, that they are often used interchageably by all of us.  One day, the people opposing a development are evil environmentalists and the next they are selfish conservatives.  It's just as easy to call anything that might benefit anyone but ourselves as subsidies.  Isn't it true that we, all of us, are actually complex mixtures of all the labels we all toss about so glibly? 

But isn't all the labeling and cross-labeling only one more manifestation of the selfishness all of us fall into from time to time?  It's hard to imagine how much progress we could make that might be beneficial to everyone if we could just bring ourselves to set aside from time to time those parts of us that make us want to hang on to our pride, selfishness, ego or whatever else it is that drives us away from seeking real solutions to real problems.

We see and read it here all the time.  Just as we see, hear and read it everywhere around us.  It is almost always exacerbated by other motives as well -- mainly profit and wealth and the need to feel that we, and we alone, are right on whatever issue is on the table.

There's an old saying that I really enjoy and think we all should remember: "Everyone does better when everyone does better."

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