Since their establishment by President Theodore Roosevelt more than a century ago, our national forests have been a treasured American legacy. They provide vital fish and wildlife habitat, clean drinking water and world-class outdoor recreation opportunities for millions – and they’re one of our best tools for combating climate change.
Obama administration officials on Thursday unveiled a key piece of their plan to jump-start the solar power industry: opening up public lands for “sun farms” and other solar power projects.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu released a draft document intended to speed the process for obtaining permits for clean energy sun farms on land held by the federal government, which would create 24 “solar zones” in six states.
The Obama administration issued proposed guidelines Thursday for solar development on public lands in the West, a move that could speed renewable energy projects that have been mired in environmental controversy.
The detailed analysis, known as a Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, identifies 24 "solar energy zones" in six states that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said would be most suited "for environmentally sound, utility-scale solar energy production."
Administrations going back to President Reagan have tried to change the planning rule, Stahl said. But alterations by the Clinton administration in 2000 were too complex to implement, and revisions in 2005 and 2008 by the Bush Administration got shot down in the courts.
Now the Obama administration is going to try its hand at making changes.
… The Forest Service expects to publish a draft environmental impact statement on the new rule in December with a final version most likely by October 2011 and a final decision in November 2011.
He is virtually rewiring the DNA of a department once focused almost exclusively on fossil fuels by pushing it to develop renewable energy on millions of acres of public lands. He has instituted new ethics regulations; raised the profile of American Indian issues; and reined in the galloping oil and gas leasing that was the hallmark of the previous administration.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has promised to bring a "balanced approach" to permitting more drilling for oil and natural gas in America's Western states. That will be a welcome change, and not only for people concerned about protecting fragile arid lands, wildlife, water and air quality, but for energy development companies.
After striking out the last three times, the U.S. Forest Service is embarking on another rewrite of the basic planning rule that balances logging against fish and wildlife and clean water in national forests.
Echoing his speech earlier this year laying out a greener future for the national forests, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced from Washington, D.C. that work is starting on an environmental impact statement to take the place of the most recent one produced by the Bush administration that was struck down by a federal judge.
In 2003, Gale Norton, then the secretary of the interior, and Michael Leavitt, then the governor of Utah, struck a deal that removed federal protections from about 2.6 million acres of public land in Utah that the Clinton administration had designated as potential wilderness. At the same time, Ms. Norton disavowed her department’s longstanding authority to identify, study and recommend new areas for wilderness protection.