Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Enviros Throw Another Wrench Into Solar Energy from Desert

Solar energy may die in the dark if environmentalists keep suing to stop it. After several Indian tribes asked federal courts to stop solar energy farms in the California desert, alleging harm to cultural resources, a different group sued the Department of the Interior again, claiming the 1,950-acre, 250-megawatt Genesis Solar Energy Project near Blythe should be stopped because it will use too much water. California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) sued the Secretary of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management, claiming the Genesis project will pump too much groundwater from the Chuckwalla Basin. Because the aquifer is "hydrologically connected to the Colorado River," the groundwater pumping must be viewed as withdrawal from the Colorado River, and subject to all the restrictions of the multistate Colorado River Compact, or "Law of the River," according to the complaint in Los Angeles Federal Court. The plaintiffs - CURE and two people - claim the federal government's "hasty approval" of the Genesis Project violation the National Environmental Policy Act, because the feds "did not adequately analyze and mitigate the Genesis Project's impact on the adjudicated and fully appropriated Colorado River, and violated FLPMA [the Federal Land Management and Policy Act] and the Administrative Procedure Act ('APA') by not acting in accordance with the Law of the River." Its procedural aspects could delay the project, but probably not stop it. The substantive claim about the Law of the River, however, while also procedural, could stop the project for decades, as all seven states with a claim to Colorado River water would presumably have to be consulted and weigh in on it...more

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