Western Lands Update Summer 2013 Vol. 17 # 1 3
Arizona, Caliornia, Colorado, Nevada,New Mexico and Utah. Permits or devel-opment in the zones would be streamlined,while those in the larger acreage would re-quire a variance. Salazar signed o on theplan on October 12, 2012, beore retiringin April 2013.
Our lawsuit asserts that BLM violatedNEPA by ailing to examine two addi-tional alternatives: a DG alternative, andanother in which solar energy acilitieswould be sited on previously degraded ordamaged lands. During the PEIS commentperiods, we, as well as the EnvironmentalProtection Agency (EPA), called or analy-sis o these alternatives, but BLM ignoredthem. In act, through a program called“Repowering America’s Lands,” EPA hasidentied and created a database o con-taminated and degraded lands potentiallysuitable or siting o renewables, includ-ing areas close to existing transmissionlines. EPA requested that the BLM at thevery least append inormation about thisprogram to the PEIS. Again, the agencyignored this request.Analysis o alternatives is a central com-ponent o NEPA. Comparing the impactso a range o alternatives is not intended just to aid the public’s understanding,but to help the agency arrive at a better-inormed decision. The plaintis stronglybelieve that the superiority o the DG anddegraded-lands options would be clear hadthey been analyzed next to the others.The limitations inherent in NEPAlitigation are legendary. The courts havedetermined that NEPA is procedural,rather than substantive law – meaning thatthe law only requires agencies to prop-erly ollow its procedures pertaining tonotication, public involvement, analysis,etc. and does not require that the agencychoose a particular alternative. That is,it does not dictate the substantive result.Thus a successul challenge o the NEPAanalysis may only result in urther analysisollowed by the very same decision.The same may hold true or a program-matic EIS: as the result o a NEPA courtvictory, the agency might examine the DGand degraded-land alternatives and endup choosing the 19-million-acre alterna-tive yet again. However, we believe that i DG and degraded-land alternatives wereactually analyzed and could be comparedside-by-side to the current proposal, thesuperiority o these alternatives would beclear – to the public at large, certainly, andpossibly even to Gang Green. This knowl-edge in turn could bring about the neededchange in policy. That is our hope.The powerul interests that support BigSolar have created many alse storylines: toconront the climate crisis, we must deploymassive renewable-energy inrastructureon public lands; those who oppose BigSolar are either climate-deniers or coal-industry sympathizers; sacrice o desertecosystems is a necessary tradeo in thepursuit o renewable energy.We don’t believe these stories, and wewill continue to advance the truth in everyvenue we have, including the courts.
A better way: Solar panels on a WalMart in Caguas, Puerto Rico.Photo: Wikimedia Commons