The Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Utility-Scale Solar energy development is shaping the future of solar in the western United States. In this episode, host Chris Clarke explores the different alternatives proposed in the draft and their potential impact on public lands. He discusses the exclusion areas, the size of land available for solar development, and the importance of considering rooftop solar as an alternative. Listeners are encouraged to comment on the draft and make their voices heard. Tune in to learn more about the future of solar energy in the desert.
The BLM will be holding meetings across the west through April for public comment.
February 5, 11:00 am - Mountain Time
Pre-registration is required at: https://argonne.zoomgov.com/meeting/register/vJIsf-GhqDkqEzs8egIvna6gxll8bYkwbfc#/registration
February 6, 5-7 pm, Mountain time
Boise State University
Jordan Ballroom Student Union Building
1700 W University Drive
Boise, Idaho 83725
Feb. 12, 5-7 pm - local time
Festival Hall/Heritage Center
96 N Main Street
Cedar City, Utah 84720
February 13, 5-7 pm- local time
Venue to be announced.
Las Vegas, Nevada
February 15, 5-7 pm- local time
Venue to be announced.
February 20, 5-7 pm- local time
Venue to be announced.
Grand Junction, Colorado
February 22, 5-7 - local time
Venue to be announced.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
March 5, 11:00 am - Mountain Time
Pre-registration is required at:
As mentioned, here's a map of lands in Alternative 3 in the Draft PEIS:
See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
0:00:08 - (Joe Geoffrey): Think the deserts are barren wastelands? Think again. It's time for 90 miles from needles, the Desert Protection podcast. It
0:00:26 - (Chris Clarke): thank you, Joe, and welcome to another episode of 90 miles from needles, the Desert Protection podcast. I'm your host, Chris Clarke, and today we are talking solar. On January 17, the Bureau of Land Management, aka BLM, released a draft of a document that may well shape how we use millions of acres of land throughout the western United States, including lots and lots of desert landscapes. This document is called the draft programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for utility scale solar energy development, aka the draft PEIS or draft solar PEIS.
0:01:06 - (Chris Clarke): When we get done with this episode, you'll understand what that means, if you don't already, and you'll understand the threat and the opportunity that we have facing us here as this country grapples with how best to address the very real threat of climate change and as we go down what this podcast feels (Spoiler Alert) is a drastically wrong road to approach the whole problem of decarbonizing our power grid.
0:01:28 - (Chris Clarke): In other words, stopping our profligate burning of fossil fuels in order to generate power. There are lots better ways to make that power that don't involve adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. 2023 is already established as the hottest year in recorded history, and we want to avoid more of those if possible. So we want to decarbonize the grid. The question is, how do we do it? And the answer from the BLM and from the other agencies, state and federal, over the years, seems to be we do it by affecting the profit of large energy companies as little as possible.
0:02:03 - (Chris Clarke): Never mind the urgency of the problem. Never mind the fact that technology exists to solve several different problems with regard to how we generate power in a carbon free manner. Never mind the fact that people are already dying from climate change. We need to prop up the energy companies as our first priority is what the BLM and state agencies seem to be saying. And for those of you who have heard me talk on this topic before, yes, we are talking about what's commonly referred to as rooftop solar as an alternative that's being completely ignored and in fact, disincentivized in many places, including California, Arizona, Nevada. It's almost like the powers that be, the boards of directors of corporations and their friends and state and federal agencies, all the powers that be, that set policy for how we comport ourselves on this landscape.
0:02:52 - (Chris Clarke): It's almost like they don't really think it's that urgent of a problem, and we need to maintain those profits in the next quarter of the fiscal year for those energy companies, rather than saving lives. That is the context, at least as far as I see it, for the draft solar PEIS, which was released, as I said, January 17 by the Bureau of Land Management. And that January 17 date starts a 90-day period in which you and I have an opportunity to comment on the solar PEIS draft.
0:03:23 - (Chris Clarke): We've basically got a hair less than three months to weigh in on this. We will have lots and lots of detail for you on meetings you can go to if you're in the right place, or how to otherwise register your opinion in our show notes. How to register your opinion. We're going to have the info in our show notes. You can try and register your opinion in our show notes, but it's probably better if you tell the BLM anyway.
0:03:43 - (Chris Clarke): Where does this document come out of? There's some history that it would help to relate. I won't go too deep. There's a lot of weeds to get lost in. But in 2005, Congress passed a law that directed the interior Department to develop energy on public lands from renewable sources, wind or geothermal or solar being chief among them. Solar is the easiest one to deal with. There's no point in putting up wind turbines if the wind isn't strong enough to justify them. And there are a lot of places where there isn't much wind out on public lands.
0:04:13 - (Chris Clarke): Geothermal, in theory, you could drill deep enough to get geothermal energy pretty much anywhere, because no matter where you are, if you drill down deep enough, you get to temperatures that will boil water and make steam and turn a turbine. But it has to make sense for the industry from a financial point of view. And so they're basically looking at places where that hot water comes close to the surface, like hot springs, geysers, places like that, thermal features like those in Yellowstone, Nevada, down by the Salton Sea. So solar has really been the focus.
0:04:44 - (Chris Clarke): The sun shines everywhere most of the time. And in 2012, the Bureau of Land Management and the US Department of Energy finalized a sort of ambitious zoning document covering six southwestern states. BLM land, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Utah. The idea behind the 2012 solar PEIS was to direct solar development to places in the southwest on BLM land where it was most suitable. That's the idea on paper. And on paper, it's a fine idea.
0:05:15 - (Chris Clarke): There was a long period of public comment. There was a lot of public opposition. There were places that, in the draft, were proposed to be devoted to solar energy development. That opposition was too fierce, and they got abandoned. They didn't show up in the final PEIS, an example being the Iron Mountain solar energy zone, which was proposed in the early versions of the 2012 PEIS. It was, in fact, something we talked about in our very first episode ever, back in January 2022.
0:05:48 - (Chris Clarke): There were 17 solar energy zones designated in the 2012 PEIS altogether. And these zones basically were where approval of large solar plants was going to be streamlined. There were also areas that were left open for proposals without any streamlining offered. Those were called variance areas. And overall, the reaction of industry to the 2012 solar PEIS has been a resounding MEH. Industries had very little interest in putting their solar projects in solar energy zones, with a couple of exceptions, one of which is really close to Joshua Tree. The industry has complained since 2012 that BLM and the Department of Energy did not give them places where they could actually put these projects in and make a profit, because companies are not taking advantage of those 2012 solar energy zones.
0:06:34 - (Chris Clarke): The PEIS from 2012 seemed to be basically a useless document. Now, it did spur some additional thought. In California in particular, the 2012 PEIS was used as the basis for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which covers 22 million acres of the desert and set aside some places for solar development as well as some places for conservation. So the document that we're looking at today is the Biden administration's attempt to fix what was wrong with the 2012 PEIS. A couple of things that they're planning to do with this. One is that solar energy zones are out.
0:07:13 - (Chris Clarke): Two is that they've added a bunch of states, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, have been added to the party. And then there are a bunch of alternatives that allow or disallow solar development based on a couple of different criteria, some of which make sense, others perhaps less. Before we dive much further, let's just cover what this document is. I think a lot of times we in the environmental media just assume people know what an environmental impact statement is, and I don't know that that's always a good assumption. So let's just cover what this document is.
0:07:51 - (Chris Clarke): Anytime a federal agency does anything that has a potential of affecting the environment, whether that's urban public health, or survival of endangered species or flow of surface water, those federal agencies are obliged to comply with a law called the National Environmental Policy act, aka NEPA, enacted in January 1970, back in the heyday of the Nixon administration. And the idea behind NEPA is that federal agencies have to assess the environmental impact of their actions and then publish a report which can be cursory and superficial, or it can run into immense depth and run to thousands and thousands of pages.
0:08:33 - (Chris Clarke): And that report has to cover what impact this project that they're talking about is going to have. Now, if it's a trivial project, the agency can get away with what's called a categorical exclusion, which goes along with a finding of no significant impact on the environment. And this comes up in like, reassigning ownership of a transmission line that's going to be used in exactly the same way that the previous owner used it.
0:08:59 - (Chris Clarke): The federal agencies, they don't have to dig too deep. They can just say, no significant impact. Here's our environmental assessment, which is the kind of report under NEPA that has the least detail, goes into the least depth because there's not much there to report. That's the theory. Painting stripes in a federal agency parking lot, or whatever it might be. The agency can make the case that this is going to have minimal, if any, environmental impact and that any environmental impact can be corrected through taking some steps to mitigate, then you can do an environmental assessment and be done with it.
0:09:34 - (Chris Clarke): Clearly, with the solar PEIS, there is a possibility that this could result in bulldozing hundreds of thousands of acres of public land for solar, which carries with it some significant environmental impact that you can't just wave away as much as some people will try to do. For projects that have a much more significant footprint on the environment, the agency in question has to produce what's called an environmental impact statement.
0:10:01 - (Chris Clarke): There are some steps that they go through. First off, scoping, in which the agency reaches out to affected people, stakeholders, members of the general public, industry, nonprofits, folks like that, and just says, what should we look at in assessing the environmental impact of this project that we're considering? Scoping is usually a really broad and very superficial look. It just covers what people say they want to have analyzed.
0:10:27 - (Chris Clarke): A scoping comment is, please look at the effects of this project on traffic in the area. Please look at the effects of this project on downwind, air quality, that kind of thing. Sometimes the agency will agree that those are significant, and they'll dive into it. Sometimes they won't. There is a big example that's particularly relevant here that the agency will not consider. No matter how many people say it and no matter what kind of persuasive language, the BLM will not consider any alternatives other than putting large solar on public lands, other than a no action alternative.
0:11:04 - (Chris Clarke): People have been making the case that public land, solar might be something that we need, but we should be putting solar in cities, in the built environment, on rooftops and landfills and aqueducts and private land and superfund sites and yada, yada, yada. That makes a lot of sense. The BLM will dismiss those comments out of hand. There is nothing in law forcing them to do that. This is an agency policy decision, could be corrected at any point.
0:11:34 - (Chris Clarke): The director of the BLM or the secretary of the interior or the White House could say, let's look at rooftop solar and all this. There's nothing in NEPA that would keep the BLM from looking at rooftop solar as an alternative to paving thousands of acres of public land. This is morally wrong. It's not illegal, but it's sketchy as hell, and it's a serious impediment to actually having a sane energy policy for public lands.
0:12:03 - (Chris Clarke): It's just. It's wrong. Anyway, once all the scoping comments have come in, then a draft environmental impact statement gets produced. The draft environmental impact statement being prepared will have a bunch of alternative scenarios, maybe half a dozen, maybe three or four. It's not a lot. It's not a mind-numbing number of alternatives that they list. In this particular instance, with the draft PEIS, there are six alternatives.
0:12:31 - (Chris Clarke): One of those in a draft EIS is usually a no action alternative. You have a baseline in comparing the effect of building the project to not building the project. That comment period comes, it goes, agency in question takes those comments, either considers them or it doesn't, and they prepare a final environmental impact statement. In this case, it'll be a final programmatic environmental impact statement, and they will pick one of the alternatives that they like best, and then the agency or the department to which the agency belongs will formalize that decision in what's called a record of decision.
0:13:11 - (Chris Clarke): That's saying, hey, we have decided we are doing this way. And then that's when the lawsuits start. Anyway, we are in the draft stage. We have a little bit less than three months to comment. At present. The deadline is April 18. They may well extend that, but April 18 is a deadline at this point. This podcast definitely encourages comments from members of the public. Let's just barrage them. If you live anywhere in the west, or if you live somewhere else but you like the west, it's time to make your voice heard.
0:13:38 - (Chris Clarke): But to comment effectively, we need to know what the alternatives are that are described in this draft Programmatic environmental impact statement. Let's get into that now. So what's in this draft Solar PEIS? There are five so called action alternatives and one no action alternative. The no action alternative is basically status quo keep things the way they are, which means that the 2012 PEIS for solar on public land still holds. It's unlikely that the no action alternative will be the alternative chosen. There are five so called action alternatives, and none of them, by the way, change anything to do with the DRECP in California.
0:14:20 - (Chris Clarke): The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which covers 22 million acres of the California Desert. Desert protection activists lobbied hard to get that excluded from the solar PEIS 2.0, so to speak, and so nothing in this document would change the way that the DRECP is administered. That said, there are other places in California that are still affected, depending on the alternative in question, and there are a number of distinct differences between the alternatives that are proposed in the draft PEIS, not only in how they're defined, but in their effects on public lands that they would govern.
0:14:57 - (Chris Clarke): The first action alternative, which the document calls alternative number one, is resource-based exclusions only, and what that means is that all lands are up for grabs in the eleven state planning area on BLM land, except for places that are specifically excluded because of the resource values that developing the area for solar would threaten or damage or destroy. And so we're talking places like within the viewshed of a national park or other important visual resources.
0:15:29 - (Chris Clarke): Areas critical habitat for species that are listed under the federal Endangered Species act. Lands with wilderness characteristics. Areas of critical environmental concern, which is a BLM designation, usually called aces, that offers some protection for sensitive lands. It's not as strong as it could be, but in this particular context, aces would be excluded from consideration for solar development.
0:15:54 - (Chris Clarke): There are special species that have their habitat areas excluded from solar development, such as the Dixie Valley toad, which we covered early on in our existence as a podcast. The Wyoming toad, the Carson wandering skipper. Also excluded are areas where the BLM and US fish and wildlife or state agencies manage species habitat in a way that would preclude solar energy development. There are exclusions for sage grouse habitat.
0:16:21 - (Chris Clarke): Any areas that are designated as no surface occupancy and BLM land use plans are excluded. Desert tortoise translocation sites would be off limits. Big game migratory corridors, officially designated natural areas corridors for national scenic byways, national conservation lands, that's a really big category. National recreation areas National Recreation trails and connecting and side trails, National Natural Landmarks Historic Places tribal cultural properties Native American sacred sites old growth forests.
0:16:57 - (Chris Clarke): Any land that's previously been found to be inappropriate for solar energy development under another regime. Lands that the BLM acquired using funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund or through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management act. And there are just some special status lands like Ivanpah Valley in Nevada, Coal Valley and Garden Valley in Arizona, near Chaco culture and National Historic park, the Rio Grande natural area.
0:17:23 - (Chris Clarke): All of which are excluded from potential solar development under alternative one. And in fact, alternative one's prohibitions are shared by all four remaining action alternatives. And the remaining action alternatives just layer some additional conditions on top of that. Got it? Okay. All those places are excluded from solar development. And that is a really good list. And in my erstwhile day job, we worked hard to make sure that that happened.
0:17:50 - (Chris Clarke): I will say I'm frankly happy to see that list is there. And all the alternatives that we'll talk about will exclude solar development from all those places. So that's something to be thankful for. Alternative number two includes all those resource-based exclusions, and on top of that, eliminates any land with a greater than 10% slope from consideration for solar development. That's a little bit of a hangover from earlier solar technologies. There is a 5% slope limit in the earlier PEIS , a relic of the fact that back in 2012, we were still talking about giant solar thermal projects, either with parabolic trough mirrors or power towers, and people aren't doing those anymore.
0:18:27 - (Chris Clarke): PV is just hella cheaper. It's no longer economically competitive to put lots and lots of mirrors in the desert, focusing sunlight on something that gets really hot. Instead, PV just takes those photons and essentially turns them directly into electrons. That sunlight gets turned directly into electrons without any kind of heating or turbines or anything like that. It's just a lot cheaper if you were moving parts. Overall, nobody's talking about solar thermal anymore. And the thing about photovoltaic panels is that you can just put them where they go.
0:18:58 - (Chris Clarke): You don't need to regrade an area to put them up. We're talking about rooftop solar using these same panels. And a lot of roofs have a lot more than a 10% slope anyway. Alternative two takes those resource-based exclusions and adds the nothing steeper than a 10% slope limit. And as is the case with alternative one's exclusions, all the remaining action alternatives also share that slope exclusion. It's almost like we're just adding conditions as we go.
0:19:25 - (Chris Clarke): Alternative number three, which the BLM has identified as their favorite, that's the one they want to go with. In the technical jargon, it is their preferred alternative. Nothing in those resource areas excluded in alternative one, nothing on a slope steeper than 10%. And the application areas can't be any farther than 10 miles from existing or planned transmission lines that are greater than 100 kilovolts.
0:19:52 - (Chris Clarke): This is the BLM listening to industry. One of the big criticisms of the solar energy zones under solar PEIS 1.0 was that there wasn't transmission available in some of those places. And this makes a lot of logical sense. 10 miles is about as far as most of these companies want to build what's called a gen-tie line, which is just the transmission line that hooks you up to the transmission line. You need to get that electricity from your solar power plant to the regional transmission line somehow. And it costs money to build gen-tie lines.
0:20:20 - (Chris Clarke): This alternative is basically recognizing what industry has been saying to the BLM since 2012 and before. And it makes a lot of logical sense. But the concern that I have, and I share it with a lot of other people, is that basically anywhere in the west that meets the criteria of not being in a resource conflict area and not being too steep could be subject to wholesale solar development, depending on where planners say they're going to put transmission lines. So basically, in theory, everywhere in these eleven states could be subject to solar development aside from those resource lands and two steep lands, as long as somebody proposes a transmission line.
0:21:01 - (Chris Clarke): Basically, in theory, the entire west could have transmission lines proposed through it. You build a transmission line from Boise to Reno, all of a sudden, the solar proposal is going to pop up like mushrooms after a rain. And in case you think I'm just being paranoid here, which is always a possibility, this is happening in western Nevada right now. The Greenlink west proposed transmission line, which is not even built yet. It's not even close to being built.
0:21:28 - (Chris Clarke): They don't even know exactly where it's going to go. But as a result of its theoretical route from somewhere near Reno to Las Vegas, there are dozens of really ill thought out solar proposals being suggested all up and down that diagonal state line between Tahoe and Vegas. So basing where you put solar on the existence of proposed or potential transmission lines is a problem. Alternative number four is called the previously disturbed lands alternative.
0:21:56 - (Chris Clarke): And so in addition to the resource conflicts exclusion in alternative one, and the nothing steeper than 10% slope from alternative two, the land has to be previously disturbed for companies to propose putting solar on it, at least in theory, this means that the habitat value is potentially less. It's kind of a weak-willed version of solar. In the built environment, there is no natural landscape that is more disturbed than a parking lot in Los Angeles or wherever.
0:22:31 - (Chris Clarke): Absolutely, it's better to put solar on a parking lot than on old growth desert. That's habitat for endangered species. If the land is previously disturbed, at least in theory, it means that there's potentially less habitat value. The resource might be compromised. And rather than putting solar in old growth sagebrush habitat or old growth Mojave yucca stands, you put it on worn out alfalfa farms and that kind of thing.
0:22:57 - (Chris Clarke): That's the theory. In the last 15 years of working on solar in the desert, however, I have seen unbelievably beautiful, ecologically valuable landscapes described as disturbed lands. Because there is, for instance, a two-rut jeep track going through the middle of it. Or somebody found a bunch of rusted old cans in a pile in one spot, or the area has been grazed in the past. And never mind the thriving populations of beleaguered species of animals and plants.
0:23:27 - (Chris Clarke): If the regulators agree that a landscape is disturbed, then it would qualify. And the definition of disturbed land is not always what we would like it to be. Alternative number five, which is my personal favorite, is previously disturbed lands. And granted all of the questions I have about the definition, there previously disturbed lands in proximity to transmission, at least in theory, this would be overgrazed lands, lands that are completely covered with invasive weeds, things like that within 10 miles of transmission lines.
0:24:04 - (Chris Clarke): Again, accepting areas with resource protection criteria, like an alternative one, and lands that are steeper than 10%, like an alternative two. Those are the five alternatives. But what do these different alternatives mean just in their impact on the land? Well, the BLM kindly included maps of what each alternative would mean, mapping the exclusion areas, the areas that are open for solar applications, the areas that have too much value as natural resource areas. They're a bit broad scale. It's hard to tell whether there's going to be something 5 miles from your house or 100 miles from your house. But they're helpful and we will put them in our show notes on our website at 90 miles from needles.com.
0:24:44 - (Chris Clarke): But just to do sort of broad level description. The no action alternative, of course, is status quo. Alternative one, that's just the resource exclusions would allow development on 55 million acres of public lands in the west. That's just under 86,000 sq mi, somewhere in between the sizes of the states of Idaho and Oregon. If you wanted a comparison that's a little bit less numerical, so that's a lot of land that would be opened up to potential solar development.
0:25:15 - (Chris Clarke): Alternative two, which is the resource exclusion and the nothing steeper than 10% would be 36 million acres and change 56,000 sq mi plus a little extra that's about the size of the state of Michigan opened up for solar development on public lands in the west. Alternative number three, the preferred alternative that would open up 22 million acres and a little bit more to solar development. 36,000 sq. Mi. Almost.
0:25:43 - (Chris Clarke): So we're talking almost the size of the state of Indiana. If you can imagine the state of Indiana growing solar panels instead of corn and put it in the inner mountain west, that's what we're talking about here. Alternative number four, which is the disturbed lands alternative, would be 11 million acres and change close to 11.2 million acres. 17,000 sq. Mi. The following states are smaller than 17,000 sq. Mi. Maryland, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Hawaii, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island.
0:26:21 - (Chris Clarke): Any of them would fit with lots of room to spare in that 17,000 sq. Mi. That's a big chunk of property, even though it's the smallest area that would be opened up in any of the alternatives we've discussed so far. It's a huge swath of land. 17.2 thousand sq. Mi. Here's a good comparison. Take the land area of the city of Los Angeles, multiply that by 37, and spread those 37 Los Angeles across public lands in the west.
0:26:53 - (Chris Clarke): Lastly, alternative five, which would restrict solar development to degraded lands within 10 miles of a transmission line, not providing resource conflicts, and on slopes lower than 10%, still a hair over 8 million acres, 12,500 sq. Mi. That is almost exactly the same size as the state of Maryland, including Chesapeake Bay. So regardless of the alternative, we are talking about a huge amount of public land.
0:27:18 - (Chris Clarke): If we take a closer look at alternative number three, which is the preferred alternative and very likely to be the one chosen in the final, and just to refresh our memories, in addition to the resource-based exclusion and the less than 10% slope exclusion basically restricts proposals and any development to within 10 miles of current and future transmission lines. But what does that mean on the ground? in California It means that most of the land that would theoretically be available for development solar under those conditions has already been covered by the DRECP.
0:27:49 - (Chris Clarke): There is still a little bit of BLM land in the south part of the Central Valley and some north of Bishop that could still see some development. California doesn't see a lot of change from the status quo in alternative three, but that is not true of even the other states that were covered by the 2012 PEIS. Nevada has the most land that would be affected, just shy of 7 million acres, most of it in the western half of the state.
0:28:13 - (Chris Clarke): There is a broad swath of land that goes up west of the Vegas suburbs and in between the Nevada test site and the California line. That could conceivably be developed in solar under this alternative. But it's not just that area. There's a whole lot of the southeast part of the state around the three-state area with Utah and Arizona by gold Butte National Monument near Mesquite, Nevada, and then the US 93 corridor heading up from there towards Hiko and generally into Great Basin National park territory.
0:28:44 - (Chris Clarke): There's a whole lot in northwestern Nevada. Nevada definitely bears the brunt of renewable energy development in this alternative. Utah is about halfway there. Utah would have a huge amount of land made available in the west desert and in the general area northwest of Zion National park. Lots of places there where I think you can count on some opposition to all this. Arizona has a big potential center of solar development in cochise county over by the Chiricahuas.
0:29:11 - (Chris Clarke): Lots of smaller parcels sort of clustered together up and down the Colorado river on the west side of the state. There's an interesting patch on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, or a little bit north of the canyon in the Arizona strip. We're going to have to dig into that a little bit more. Colorado doesn't get affected much. New Mexico has a lot of acres that would be affected. They're scattered throughout the state, but predominantly in the south.
0:29:34 - (Chris Clarke): The four corners area and the general vicinity of the Navajo reservation has a couple of big patches where proposed solar facilities would be welcome. Wyoming is likely to see a lot of change under alternative three. Just under 3 million acres of land in Wyoming would be made available to solar developers. It is checkerboarded throughout the southwest of the state, the Red Desert, Evanston, and Green River area.
0:30:01 - (Chris Clarke): There is a big patch up around what looks to be Casper, and then in the far north of the state, east of Yellowstone somewhere. I'm guessing from the map that would be around Cody. Oregon sees a relatively small amount of land made available. Relatively small. It's not small. It's not objectively small. 700,000 acres and change that would entirely be in the east desert part of the state. Washington has a mere 100,000 acres, which is less than a lot of the states involved, but it's still significant if you happen to be an organism that lives on one of those 100,000 acres.
0:30:34 - (Chris Clarke): Montana has about twice that at 209,000 acres. And Idaho's potential land for development is pretty much all in the Snake River plain south and east of Boise. Following the river, pretty much there I'm given to understand that's where the applications are already coming in for BLM land in Idaho. I wouldn't be surprised if there were some effects on farmland issues coming up on the ground there if this gets approved. But we shall see.
0:30:58 - (Chris Clarke): Overall, if you look at it with a 90,000-foot view, PEIS alternative three basically keeps hammering the desert, and you'd think we would know better. At this point, states like California and republic agencies are reducing or eliminating incentives for solar in the built environment. We've seen a crash in solar installations on rooftops and parking lots and such. This is solar that can be installed with minimal environmental damage. I mean, there's always the issue of the materials that go into the solar panels, and we will cover that in a subsequent episode. I don't want to downplay that. It's important.
0:31:34 - (Chris Clarke): But as far as what gets replaced by the solar, as far as any kind of habitat that gets degraded or destroyed when the solar goes in, you put those things up on top of roofs or over carports, or over canals and aqueducts and parking lots, that is minimal environmental impact. And it's also faster. When's the last time it took you five years to pull a building permit? Building permits are what you need to put solar on your rooftop.
0:31:58 - (Chris Clarke): Now, there are some smart people who cover public land solar for a living who say rooftop is all well and good, but we absolutely need public land solar. And they crunch numbers and they justify their argument, and it seems like they make sense. And what I never see in those crunched numbers is discussion of how much energy we're using, whether we need to use all that energy, or whether it is going to mine cryptocurrency or run a data center that is exactly like the ten closest data centers, except that it's owned by somebody different.
0:32:33 - (Chris Clarke): We're also going to look at that whole conundrum in a subsequent episode. But in the meantime, look at our website for a list of meetings that the BLM will be holding. Some of them will be online so that regardless of where you are, you can take part. Some of them will be in towns throughout the west. I'm sure that list will be added to. This is in flux, and that's our show. I want to take a second to thank some contributors who have joined our crew of podcast supporters. They are Brandy Wood, who just joined us at Patreon.
0:33:10 - (Chris Clarke): Thank you very much, Brandy. Kevin Emmerich, who is one of the co-founders of Basin and Range Watch, who has worked on precisely this kind of topic for as long as I've been in the desert, longer than that, and from whom I have learned a huge amount. Thank you, Kevin. Similarly for Patrick Donnelly, who has been a guest on our show early on talking about the Dixie Valley toad and has contributed some audio on other topics as well.
0:33:38 - (Chris Clarke): Naomi Fraga, a kick ass botanist who is doing some great work in the Amargosa Basin and beyond, and Danielle Segura, who is just a really good friend and a wonderful person. Thank you so much, all of you and the people that have given faithfully over the last couple of years, month by month, you make it possible for us to keep doing what we're doing. We have a new mailing address. We are at Po Box 127 29 palms, California 92277.
0:34:11 - (Chris Clarke): Once again, thank you to Joe Geoffrey, who is our wonderful voiceover artist, and we look forward to seeing some of you out in the world as I embark starting on the 29 January, traveling throughout the southwest, getting some reporting done. Hopefully meeting some listeners to the podcast. Should be a good trip again, going from Death Valley to Oregon, pipe Cactus National Monument, a few days in Tucson, some time in El Paso, Big Bend, southern New Mexico, including Carlsbad Caverns, which is a place I've never been.
0:34:51 - (Chris Clarke): Want to see it and just hope to run into some of you out there. In the meantime, please take care of yourself, keep loving the desert, and we'll see you at the next watering hole. Bye now.
90 Miles from Needles is a production of the Desert advocacy media Network.