Environmental activists criticize federal review of large-scale desert solar

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Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

The Obama Administration has given the green light to a first of its kind, massive $6 billion solar project in the Mojave Desert, near Blythe.

Californians and others were so interested in a complex federal environmental review of large-scale solar that the Interior Department extended a deadline for comment.

One California-based group has a comment: they don’t like it.

Solar Done Right is a group of public land activists from California and Nevada. They love the desert for its ecological value – and they’re skeptical of federal and state plans to put large projects in Western deserts.

Federal land managers are circulating a massive study – a framework, they say, for figuring out where fields of solar panels can go. Solar Done Right says the study encourages exploitation of pristine land, and fails to require enough alternatives or scientific surveys.

In a new report, the group points out that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has identified millions of acres of abandoned mines and “brownfields” that would make good sites for energy projects. Environmental groups say California has 300,000 acres alone – and that land should be the sole focus of big energy projects.

Other groups in western states have given federal officials heat for failing to look into other options. Solar Done Right’s report calls for more solar on building rooftops – and urges the federal government to go back to the drawing board when it comes to the desert.

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