Green Groups Challenge Western Energy Plan

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Conservation organizations and the western Colorado county of San Miguel say a plan developed under the Bush-era coal-friendly Energy Policy Act will create sprawling energy corridors that promote dirty energy across the West.

     The West-wide Energy Corridors are a 6,000 mile network of rights-of-way that hopscotch over public, private, state, and tribal lands. The Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, and 11 other groups say the Department of Interior and its creatures sidestepped crucial environmental protection requirements in developing the corridors.
     The agencies were required to consult with the public and local and state governments about developing the corridors, to address concerns about its effects on the health of the land and its inhabitants. The groups say the agencies did not consider renewable energy or energy conservation and efficiency despite alternative proposals.
     The public, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, voiced their concerns in letters about the agencies’ failure to accommodate renewable energy, protect land, and consult with local governments.
     But the agencies refused to consider alternatives because they believed that none would “address the energy transmission congestion issues of the electricity transmission grid of the west,” according to the complaint.
     But the defendant agencies – including the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service and the Department of Energy – have acknowledged that the project area contains 150 plant and 175 animal species that are listed as threatened or endangered.
     The agencies released a map for a 30-day public comment period but the map did not include the full stretch of the corridors, the organizations say.
     “Hopefully the Obama administration will see this as an opportunity to evaluate energy efficiency and conservation and to hopefully transition in a direction that addresses reform,” said Amy Atwood, public lands energy director at the Center for Biological Diversity, “We must transition to green energy while doing everything we can to protect wildlife and ecosystems.”
     The organizations want the land management plans revised to comply with federal and state laws. Their lead attorneys are Gregory Loarie with Earthjustice of Oakland, Calif., and Amy Atwood, with the Center for Biological Diversity in Portland, Ore.

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