Green Government: U.S. Plans Solar on Public Lands

Homegrown renewable, clean energy.

Without fracking, drilling, stripmining, or pipelining.

I didn’t know that the U.S. government was planning solar sites on public lands:

Obama Administration Releases Roadmap for Solar Energy Development on Public Lands

More via

Western Solar Zones to Streamline Development on Public Lands

The document, released by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy, is the culmination of two years of dialogue between regulators, environmentalists, industry advocates and the public at large. On Tuesday, the DOI unveiled the much-awaited Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which sets a vision for development on public lands in six Western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

The Interior has approved 17 zones for utility-scale solar energy projects on about 285,000 acres of public land with combined resources of nearly 32,000 megawatts (MW). It also sets up a process to allow development of what the DOI calls “well-sited projects” on 19 million acres outside those zones. PEIS estimates that the zones and the variance areas will eventually lead to about 23,700 MW of development.

The plan is being well-received by environmental groups and local stakeholders.


DOI Issues Well-Received Solar Plan for US West

Leading environmental and solar industry groups issued a press release endorsing the plan, including Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Audubon Society,  Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Solar Energy Industries Association, Southern California Edison, Vote Solar, First Solar, and Brightsource Solar.

U.S. public lands are our Commons. Deciding how to use, maintain and preserve  our country’s resources is a shared responsibility among all of us.

Green Business: NOAA Fisheries’ Congressional Cod Report

NOAA Fisheries officials presented 2012 first quarter data on the status of U.S. fish stocks to Congress May 15.

Read the 2012 Status of U.S. Fisheries report.

Coverage of the congressional report comes via

NOAA sustainability reports shows new gains

By Richard Gaines Staff Writer

NOAA made its annual report Monday to Congress on the status of the nation’s fish stocks, and noted that, in 2011 the so-called Fish Stock Sustainability Index — a kind of Dow Jones Industrial Average for 230 key fish stocks — continued improving for the 11th straight year.

The good news on top  is that progress is being made toward ending overfishing and rebuilding fish stocks, “due to the commitment of fishermen, fishing communities, nongovernment organizations, scientists and managers.”

Well enough.

But good enough, and more importantly, fast enough?

Probably not.

Here’s where things stand today with 2011 cod catch limits, and the forecast for next year:

Based on the 2011 assessment, the catch limit on Gulf of Maine cod for the 2012 fishing year that started May 1 is set at 22 percent lower than it was in 2011. But far more drastic cutbacks are expected from NOAA beginning May 1, 2013. The 22 percent cut is considered an interim measure.

It’s hard to stay positive about real, incremental positive improvement in recreational and commercial inshore stocks when offshore draggers are scraping the bottom of the Stellwagen Bank ocean clean of  fish. Read more on this.

How are these major commercial fishing operations getting away with this? By exploiting weaknesses in the Catch Share program rules. Read an article on some ways that draggers may be beating the rules.

It’s a very very complicated issue.

But at the end of the day, once the vastly diminished cod stocks are gone, they’re gone.

Ciao Cod.

Related article: If We Eat All the Fish, Whose Tragedy Is it?


Green Business: If We Eat All the Fish, Whose Tragedy Is it?

Who owns our fish?

As author Margaret Shaw notes in a blog post for, the rapidly diminishing deep ocean fish stocks that lie outside national jurisdictions are out of sight, out of mind and beyond legal recourse.

Call it the tragedy of the oceans.

If no one owns them, can I take them all?

Who can stop me?

Is that fair? Is that right?

Does it even make sense for me to do that?

A new UN panel convened May 8 to discuss a new program that will tackle these questions and others regarding global fish stocks.


Fisheries up for Grabs: Who Owns our Fish?

“At the United Nations yesterday, a Program on Global Sustainable Fisheries Management and Biodiversity in ABNJ was introduced to protect the biodiversity of this area, which some consider to be the last global “commons” on Earth.

A new program that will devote $44 million to manage the long-term health of this frontier which is depreciating rapidly. Throughout history, it’s been “every man for himself” out there beyond the watchful eyes of citizens, giving way to total anarchy dominated by highly sophisticated $10 billion dollar/year fishing operations equal to 6.3 million tons caught per year.

With millions of tons of fish brought to market each year, it’s a fair question to ask why this level of harvesting is a problem:

No deep-sea bottom trawl vessels or fleets have demonstrated that they can fish deep-sea species sustainably and prevent damage to deep-sea ecosystems.

On the table for Rio+20 next month, though not without conflict, is an end to government fishing subsidies, considered to be as damaging as fossil fuel subsidies. No agreement has been reached here, nor has a proposed phase-out of all deep-sea bottom-trawl fishing on the high seas by 2015.

And, what remedies and solutions could be enacted to help achieve sustainable goals:

Also at the negotiating table is a call for labeling, and for seafood buyers and retailers to only buy and sell fish from deep-sea fisheries that have clearly demonstrated no harm to deep-sea ecosystems.

Today, as global fish stocks decline, seafood becomes an increasingly expensive item for the rich and a rarity for the poor. With the world population expected to reach 8.2 billion by 2030, the planet will have to feed an additional 1.5 billion people, 90 percent of whom will be living in developing countries many of which depend on local fisheries.

When we over harvest fish beyond sustainable levels, there are inevitable downstream impacts. For one thing, eventually you won’t be able to catch any more fish yourself.

In the bigger picture, overfishing means less for people who depend on local fish for their survival.

I reject the Tragedy of the Commons thesis that individuals, acting from self-interest, will inevitably overexploit resources even when it’s cleanly not in our best interests to do so.

I believe this because humans have sustainably stewarded resources for millenia.

Farmers know to replenish their fields. Hunters know to leave the does. Fisherfolk know to release breeding lobsters back to the sea.

It’s only in the past few hundred years that technology has allowed us to take beyond Nature’s ability to replenish.

Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.



Green Politics: Baptists, Bootleggers and Spotted Owls

A sure way to know more about where you stand on an issue is to stand in someone else’s shoes.

Many thanks to Professor Barbour for bringing Professor Jack Rabin to speak with our Rutgers Environmental Stewards class this week. Professor Rabin passionately believes that the best way to conserve natural resources is to protect and expand private property rights.

Professor Rabin’s lecture has me thinking hard about environmental resource economics, personal property rights and environmental regulatory actions as a blunt tool.

The tensions between personal rights and the public good usually keep people far apart from agreement. I knew that going in.

What I hadn’t considered is how these tensions can create unintended, unexpected alliances and strange bedfellows.

For example, imagine Baptists who find themselves unexpectedly allied with Bootleggers to enact Blue Laws. They want the same result, albeit for different reasons. The Baptists gets a day where people can’t buy liquor and hopefully will come to church. The Bootlegger gets a competition-free day to sell his booze. They are willing to work together to achieve their own goals.

Turns out this surprising dynamic appears in lots of environmental conflicts. Now that I am aware of it, I’ll be keeping a lookout.

While I don’t agree with Professor Rabin on all counts, I think we can agree, unequivocally, that balance and respect will go a long way to solving our country’s energy and environmental issues.

I appreciated the chance to engage in truly civil discourse. As Professor Barbour put it: arguing in good faith rather than arguing to win at all costs.

Perhaps there are win-win resolutions just wanting to be discovered in our horn-locked positions on the environment and energy issues.

View Professor Rabin’s presentation: Property Rights and the Environment: Baptists, Bootleggers and Spotted Owls