Thursday, September 25, 2014

Where we pray Minnesota doesn't join Alice down the rabbit hole with California and D.C.

This morning I came across a notice that the Interior Department and the state of California had released a new renewable energy plan. I thought that was progress until I read that
The 8,000-page plan covers 22.5million acres of public and private land in the California desert, and was unveiled in Palm Springs by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and top state land management, energy and wildlife officials.

renewable solar energy
Photo by J. Harrington

I'm not even going to start ranting about how absurd an 8,000 page plan is, even to cover an area (22.5million acres) almost half the size of Minnesota. (There are 640 acres in a square mile. Let me know, please, if I messed up the calculations.) To get back on point, here's a key piece of information from the DoI press release:
The public comment period will run through January 9, 2015. A recorded informational webinar to help the public navigate the DRECP documents will be available on Friday, September 26 at and will be broadcast on October 9, 2014, at BLM, FWS and CDFW offices throughout the DRECP planning area. Formal public meetings will be held in late October and early November throughout the DRECP planning area and surrounding population centers. Future meetings will be announced at For instructions on how to submit written comments, view informational webinars, see meeting details and to sign up to receive email notifications, please visit Comments may also be submitted in person at the aforementioned public meetings.
Apparently, Interior doesn't believe in providing functional links in their press releases or they would have provided a link to and not just a note that it's the address of a nongovernmental web site. (And why would a governmental plan be hosted on a NGO web site? Wouldn't that be similar to Minnesota hosting the PolyMet NorthMet SDEIS on the MiningMinnesota web site?)

renewable biomass energy
Photo by J. Harrington

On a normal day, I can easily read 100 pages. So, if I read nothing else, I could wade through 8,000 pages in about 3 months, leaving me a week or so to prepare comments before the comment period ends. Without having read the document, I am greatly unimpressed with the process. Here's one example of why: On the DRECP web site there's a page of links to the Draft DRECP and EIR/EIS documents, one of which notes "The Draft DRECP and EIR/EIS is also available on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website." The last time I checked (about 20 minutes ago) F&WS was part of Interior. Why the Interior press release doesn't include a link to the F&WS web site is beyond me. Anyhow, at the F&WS location, you can readily find a PDF of the 60 page Executive Summary Sixty pages is slightly less than 1% of an 8,000 page document. As far as I'm concerned, and I'm against Anthropogenic Climate Disruption and for renewable energy, I'm much more in favor of less disruptive, much smaller scale neighborhood renewable energy projects that don't require 8,000 page plans. Interior's and California's plan is supported by folks like
... Mark Tholke, a vice president at EDF Renewables, an energy company that has built plants in the desert, said rooftop solar is inadequate to address climate change.

“Many of us feel a real urgency to get as many (plants) up and running as possible, as soon as possible,” Tholke said. To slow climate change, he said, “we need to do a lot more than rooftop and distributed generation. We need cost-effective, large projects.”
Spoken like someone who makes a living building cost-effective large projects.

renewable wind energy
Photo by J. Harrington

As I recall, the Internet is a cost-effective large project designed on the basis of connecting lots of small projects. It was going fine until the government and industry started putting profits ahead of purpose. Maybe we'll have the foresight in Minnesota to show California how it should be done with neighborhood scale projects, including those on tribal lands. It took us a long time to create the problems we're facing these days. We created them by relying on single purpose, industrial scale, profit maximizing developments created based on short term time horizons to make them cost effective and profitable. Even (especially!) recovering planners know that "More of the same never solved a problem." Isn't it time we started acting as if we expect to be around for awhile and treated the earth, including the desert as Josephine Miles would have us do?


By Josephine Miles 

When with the skin you do acknowledge drought,
The dry in the voice, the lightness of feet, the fine
Flake of the heat at every level line;

When with the hand you learn to touch without
Surprise the spine for the leaf, the prickled petal,
The stone scorched in the shine, and the wood brittle;

Then where the pipe drips and the fronds sprout
And the foot-square forest of clover blooms in sand,
You will lean and watch, but never touch with your hand.

September 1934

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