What is the deal with these renewable energy projects in the desert? First, a federal appellate panel ruled last week that the Department of Energy failed to adequately consult with states or conduct public reviews before establishing high-voltage electric transmission corridors through the Mojave Desert. Then, this week federal officials from the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy began holding meetings throughout California and five other western states to better inform the public about the kinds of activities that solar plants create on public lands. That’s because private solar energy enterprises want to build big plants on public lands, and they want the federal government to “fast-track” those renewable energy zones. But would fast-tracking some zones, like the ones up for consideration in Imperial County, bring jobs to those areas where unemployment hovers at a stubborn 29-30%? And are there environmental considerations to be made about the potential damage caused by solar construction to its surrounding ecosystem and animals like the desert tortoise? The Secretary of the Interior throws the switch here and Patt hears from some people on all sides of the debate.
Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior
Molly Peterson, KPCC’s environmental reporter