Shift In Federal Policy
What has opened the way for such a costly source of energy is the dramatic turn in federal policy. In 2005, the Bush administration established generous programs to reward renewable energy developers. The Obama administration continued the policy, offering $45 billion in federal tax credits, guaranteed loans and grants.
In California, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger freed large solar plants from property tax and handed out $90 million in exemptions from sales and use taxes. Under Governor Jerry Brown, the state invested more than $70 million in clean energy research last year.
Ironically, most of the opposition as come from the government, in the form of the National Park Service, which has voiced the strongest complaints about the scale and siting of solar projects. California’s desert parks: Joshua Tree, Death Valley and the Mojave National Preserve have the most acreage affected by the development.
The Department of Defense also has raised questions, the the Federal Aviation Administration has voiced concerns about the heat plume rising from the Ivanpah towers and about the installation’s possible radar interference.
Dennis Schramm, who retired last December as superintendent at Mojave National Preserve, found himself at odds with the Interior Department, his own parent agency, in defending the 900 species of plants and 300-plus species of animals in the preserve, especially the desert tortoise.
There are no easy answers here, but could it be that once again the Big Energy Companies are calling the shots? Meanwhile, I think I’ll take my desert hiking elsewhere.
Photo Credit: iStock
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