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Desert tortoise to remain on list of threatened species

A recently released five-year review of the status of endangered and threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to list the desert tortoise as threatened.

Threatened species are those that are likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Fish and Wildlife is required to review each endangered or threatened species at least every five years.

Because the desert tortoise is a threatened species, all energy projects in the Mojave Desert have to make sure that the reptile is disturbed as little as possible and projects which find larger numbers of the tortoises than expected — such as the Ivanpah solar project near the California-Nevada border — can be shut down or delayed.

As part of the review, new information is considered on the population trends, population distribution, habitat conditions, and conservation measures of the species, according to Fish and Wildlife. A species is determined to be endangered or threatened based on present or threatened destruction of its habitat, disease or predation, inadequate regulations regarding the species, being overused for scientific purposes, and any other natural or manmade threat to the species.

State school land exchange bill heads to Senate

A bill that would consolidate scattered school-owned lands in the California desert for use by renewable energy projects was passed by the Assembly Committee on Appropriations May 27 and was read by the Senate for the first time Wednesday.

Assembly Bill 982 — proposed by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) — would require the State Lands Commission to attempt land exchanges with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in order to form connected parcels of school lands. An analysis of the bill states that about 370,000 acres of school lands are located in the California desert and are land-locked, remote, and not able to produce revenue for the state.

The school lands granted by the federal government are in 640 acre sections, while most large scale solar projects require thousands of acres. The bill analysis states that several of the school land parcels are surrounded by Bureau of Land Management lands that are not protected by the California Desert Protection Act and would be suitable for land exchanges with the BLM.

Conservative, taxpayer groups oppose new renewable loan guarantees

Various conservative and taxpayer groups urged caution with issuing federal loan guarantees for renewable energy sources while the country faces a $1.4 trillion debt.

President Barack Obama has called for an additional $36 billion in funding for the Title XVII loan guarantee program, which has issued loans for renewable energy projects. The Department of Energy announced last month that the current funding for the program is running out.

The Senate is also considering forming a new Clean Energy Deployment Administration, which would be a financing agency that would expand energy loan guarantees.

Andrew Moylan, vice president for government affairs for taxpayer advocacy organization National Taxpayers Union, said the loan guarantees would be “difficult to track and lack robust oversight.” He urged lawmakers  to protect taxpayers.

“Loan guarantees, whether for traditional or alternative energy sources, are nothing more than massive taxpayer handouts to private entities,” said Moylan.

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