Three public-interest environmental organizations have filed a legal challenge against the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI)'s establishment of solar energy zones in the U.S. Southwest, as described in the DOI's Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Solar Energy Development in Six Southwestern States (PEIS).
DOI Secretary Ken Salazar, who recently announced his resignation, approved the PEIS last fall. According to the lawsuit plaintiffs, Western Lands Project, Desert Protective Council and Western Watersheds Project, the plan keeps 19 million acres of public land open to industrial solar applications.
In their complaint, the organizations cited the government's failure to consider alternatives that would focus solar development on degraded lands and in the already-built environment. The government's analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act allegedly ignored alternative approaches – such as a distributed-generation alternative – that would be less damaging to the environment, more efficient and less costly to taxpayers and ratepayers.
‘The administration is opting to needlessly turn multiple-use public lands into permanent industrial zones,’ says Janine Blaeloch of the Western Lands Project. ‘Solar development belongs on rooftops, parking lots, already-developed areas and degraded sites, not our public lands. ‘