LAS VEGAS (AP) - A federal judge in Nevada has sent plans for a big wind farm in the Mojave Desert back to the drawing board, citing incomplete research about the dangers it posed to sensitive and threatened species.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du in Las Vegas said the federal Bureau of Land Management failed to fully determine the effect that 87 wind turbines spread across nearly 30 square miles south of Las Vegas could have on golden eagles, desert tortoises and bats.
The wind farm has been proposed by Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy for 18,949 acres of BLM land between the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Searchlight.
The Las Vegas Sun reports (https://bit.ly/1MNK1QX) the ruling, made final Oct. 30, requires a new permitting process for the project, which would have been the second of its kind in the state.
The decision comes after a three-year legal fight by environmentalists including Friends of Searchlight Desert and Mountains, Basin and Range Watch and Las Vegas resident Judy Bundorf.
The judge pointed to what she termed “unexplained inconsistencies” in a BLM environmental study, which was approved by the Interior Department in March 2013.
The study said the project would affect 119 desert tortoises, and identified three golden eagle nests in the project area.
But Du agreed with plaintiffs that closer to 1,000 threatened tortoises could be affected, and pointed to a state study that put the number of golden eagle nests closer to 30.
Dave Becker, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, called the site the wrong place to put big wind turbines.
He said the ruling highlights a dilemma for environmental advocates who generally support renewable energy projects including solar and wind, but also want to protect threatened species and sensitive habitats.
“We like to say the federal government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers,” Becker told the Sun. “But when it comes to land management it’s exactly what the BLM should be doing - picking projects with big benefits and low impacts.”
Information from: Las Vegas Sun, https://www.lasvegassun.com
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