Two environmental groups in April filed suit to block an energy project they said would seriously harm the local ecosystem.
It wasn’t a coal plant, or an oil refinery, or a nuclear reactor. It was a wind farm — the very sort of “clean” energy environmentalists champion as an alternative to dirty traditional supplies.
But the Portland Audubon Society and Oregon Natural Desert Association say a wind farm on Oregon’s Steens Mountain, along with needed access roads and transmission lines, would threaten eagles, sage grouse and bighorn sheep and call it the “antithesis” of “responsible renewable energy development.”
Also in April, an appeals court took up a lawsuit seeking to stop a 399-megawatt, 3,200-acre solar power plant in Panoche Valley, 130 miles southeast of San Francisco. Environmentalists say it will harm the endangered blunt-nosed lizard and kangaroo rat.
“No one disputes the necessity for solar energy,” the green groups’ attorney told the court, but “it is improper on this site.”
Environmentalists are openly hostile to oil, coal and nuclear energy. And while some had backed natural gas as a “bridge fuel,” opposition has soared as a U.S. supply glut makes gas far cheaper.
But national and local environmental groups are fighting to block or delay many solar plants, wind farms, hydropower and biomass plants and other forms of “clean” energy, along with new transmission lines needed to bring that energy to customers.
The effect, observers say, is to slow green energy growth. Even if renewable production rose at three times the overall energy output pace, it would still make up just 16% of domestic supplies by 2035, from 10% now, according to the Energy Department.