Feds freeze new solar projects on public land, pending review
The Bush administration has put a moratorium on new solar projects on public land pending large-scale study of their environmental impacts, a process which could take about two years. Since 2005, over 130 solar-plant proposals have been filed for large-scale solar projects that together would cover some 1 million acres of BLM land, if approved. Officials at the Interior Department have said that temporarily halting the cascade of solar power projects will give them time to develop criteria to apply to future projects, thereby potentially speeding the permitting process down the road. Many in the solar industry are incensed about the sudden solar-project stoppage, which, together with the unsure future of the renewable-energy tax credit, could slow industry growth. “It doesn’t make any sense,” said a solar-company exec. In contrast, the leasing process for oil and gas development on public lands has sped up significantly in recent years, with the number of permits now far outpacing the industry’s drilling capacity.