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Feinstein's Desert Desire Has the Green Sector Seeing Red

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Photo by Lush.i.ous via LAist Featured Photos

Photo by Lush.i.ous via LAist Featured Photos
Senator Dianne Feinstein has long been a champion of environmental causes, but now she may find herself pitted against one major faction of the movement as she launches a fight to designate a large portion of Southern California's desert as a national monument.

The move has drawn ire from Washington because it would mean that hundreds of thousands of acres would be off-limits for use in solar and wind power projects, which are at the core of the President's energy mission, and also important strides forward for the state, the LA Times is reporting. Feinstein's move is being seen by some Republicans as a mixed signal from the Dems about the party and the state's focus on renewable energy, and energy experts are also concerned this will be typical of the pace of progress on moving towards a green economy.

So why is Feinstein seemingly moving in the opposite direction? It comes down to her involvement 15 years ago in a significant piece of legislation regarding this area, known as the Catellus Lands, explains YubaNet:

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Senator Feinstein was the lead sponsor of the 1994 Desert Protection Act, which provided lasting federal protection for nearly 9 million acres of pristine desert land in Southern California. It established Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. It remains the largest parks and wilderness bill to impact the lower 48 states.

Feinstein has approached Sec. of the Interior Ken Salazar to bring forth her concerns that the government honor their commitment to protection, rather than development. Although no parameters have been drawn up yet, the area of the Mojave Feinstein is seeking to protect is in demand already: "The Bureau of Land Management is reviewing 130 applications for solar and wind energy development in the California desert, covering more than 1 million acres of public land, according to Feinstein [...] At least 19 projects have been suggested in the area where the monument has been proposed."

No adage is more appropriate in this case than "you can't please everyone." Salazar responded to Feinstein by saying that they will weigh all the proposals for energy projects carefully against the environmental concerns, but that renewable energy must remain a priority. Gov. Schwarzenegger, who has long believed the Mojave is the best place for such projects, has indicated he is willing to work with the Senator, and "a number of companies pursuing solar or energy projects said they hoped to work with Feinstein to fashion legislation that would satisfy her, environmentalists and the industry."

Tension in the face of using the landscape for energy projects is familiar territory for some Californians; recently desert communities voiced opposition to LA Mayor Villaraigosa and the DWP's plan to create the Green Path Power Project.