Interior gives an environmental pass to its business friends.
Who says President Obama isn’t pro-business? The trick is being a business he likes.
Several weeks ago in a remarkable but little-noticed policy directive, the Interior Department announced that it will allow construction permitting on 285,000 acres of public land in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah for solar energy projects. Even more remarkable, Interior said that energy firms can petition Interior to build solar installations “on approximately 19 million acres”—a larger land mass than Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont combined.
Interior boasts that “this represents a major step forward in the permitting of utility-scale solar energy on public lands throughout the west.” This means opening up huge chunks of U.S. desert and wilderness to the installation and long-term placement of hundreds of thousands of solar panels. The dirty secret of solar and wind power is that they are extremely land intensive, especially compared to coal mining, oil and gas drilling or building a nuclear power plant.
That’s only part of the special treatment for solar companies. Interior says it plans to expedite solar-project approval and cut up-front costs for developers. The agency is also streamlining National Environmental Policy Act approval and facilitating the linking of solar electricity generation to transmission lines that will carry the electricity to substations. All of this is on top of the $9 billion in taxpayer handouts for solar and wind projects that were approved between 2009 and 2011.
In short, green energy is getting an EZ Pass through the Administration’s costly regulatory tolls. Since taking office in 2009, the Obama Administration has approved 17 major solar projects on public lands. All of this is facilitated through a program called the “roadmap for solar energy development.”