photo by Petor Smit
Even though it was announced over a month ago now, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's decision to put a moratorium on all new applications for solar energy development on the lands it controls in six western states only managed to make it onto the collective media radar last week. If the comments Treehugger has received about this development are representative of the green community as a whole, no one's too pleased by this Federal decision. That includes the solar industry itself:
The BLM is "quitting"
At the heart of the BLM decision is administrative backlog. The solar industry so wants into the U.S. public lands in question—much of which is has ideal terrain and climate for solar development—that the BLM says it is swamped in applications.
According to Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industry Association: "We think it's ludicrous that the BLM will put a moratorium on new projects when they haven't processed a single one...There are 80 million acres on U.S. land leased to the oil and gas industry, and not once acre for solar."
Robert Fishman of Ausra summed up what many people are probably feeling: "The BLM is just quitting. What they should be doing is staffing up and seeing how they are going to process these applications."
What's on the table
While we may have a moratorium that is expected to last two years, there are still a significant number of projects on the table that the BLM is currently evaluating. According to the BLM project manager for this study, there are 130 applications still being considered, which together have the potential to power about 20 million homes.
Apart from the wisdom or lack thereof of reevaluating the environmental impact assessment procedure—and couldn't a new system be developed without entirely halting new applications?—it seems the BLM needs a lesson in public relations. You announce a new policy which is sure to have the environmental movement and solar industry up in arms, but it doesn't become a news item until a month later. Or was that intentional?