11:32am

Wed August 29, 2012
Environment

Groups Protest Obama Administration Solar Plan

Environmental groups have filed a formal protest against an Obama Administration plan to fast-track large-scale solar power development in Colorado and five other western states.

More than two years in the making, a recently issued US Department of Interior decision sets aside tracts of remote, public land across the desert Southwest for large-scale solar power projects. The Obama Administration sees these as key for transforming the nation’s energy portfolio and bringing much-needed tax revenue to rural communities.

But Janine Blaeloch of the Seattle-based Western Lands Project says this type of development also requires roads, transmission lines and heavy industrial activity that could damage pristine lands.

"It makes total sense that we would be focusing on degraded land, contaminated land, rooftops and pavement such as parking lots to do this rather than going out into habitat and paving the desert with mirrors," Blaeloch says.

In their formal protest filing, the Western Lands Project and two other groups argue the Interior Department should instead be focusing on what’s called distributed solar generation; or smaller-scale solar farms and gardens that utilize space that's already been developed.

Interior officials have not yet responded to the protests, and the agency’s final “Record of Decision” is still pending.

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