Home > Uncategorized > US Army Corps Plans to Weaken Wetlands Protections for Green Power

US Army Corps Plans to Weaken Wetlands Protections for Green Power

While I support subsidies and incentives to promote renewable energy, cutting corners on environmental protection is a bad idea.

Below is a heads up on an upcoming proposal from the US Army Corps of Engineers to do just that – from the PEER DC Office.

While NJ has a stricter State Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act, the USACOE proposal is another reason why Governor Christie’s Executive Order #2 “federal consistency policy” seeking rollback of NJ’s strict standards to federal minimums is a very bad idea too.

State agencies shall, when promulgating proposed rules, not exceed the requirements of federal law except when required by State statute or in such circumstances where exceeding the requirements of federal law or regulation is necessary in order to achieve a New Jersey specific public policy goal.

For Immediate Release: November 9, 2010
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

BIG WETLANDS LOSSES PLOTTED FOR GREEN POWER – Corps Prepares Broad Exemptions for Solar, Wind, Geothermal & Tidal Facilities

Washington, DC – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is finalizing new rules allowing the destruction of wetlands and streams and ocean floor to accommodate renewable power facilities, according to a document posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Corps is using a regulatory device designed for actions that have minimal cumulative adverse effects on the environment, but the scope of its draft permits could permit massive losses of freshwater swamps, streams, and ocean habitat.

The Corps’ draft would establish what are called Nationwide Permits for land-based renewable power generators (listed as wind, solar and geothermal power), offshore wind and solar arrays and tidal or other hydrokinetic energy generation facilities. In most areas of the country, Nationwide Permits limit or eliminate review by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service.

“This would enable green power to gratuitously create brown consequences” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, arguing that wetlands and coastal protections have not inhibited renewable power siting. “The thinking behind this proposal is that green energy facilities have no other environmental impacts but that is demonstrably untrue when you consider the impacts wind turbines have on birds or the heavy water usage of many solar plants”

Under the Clean Water Act, a permit must be denied if there is a practicable alternative that will cause less harm. Moreover, if the proposed activity is not water dependent, there is a legal presumption that less environmentally damaging alternatives exist. Many of the projects covered under the proposed Nationwide Permits are not necessarily water dependent and can have major adverse effects, including:

  • The Corps would allow loss of an acre of wetland per project, an area much larger than most other Nationwide Permits. For example, the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound would build 130 industrial-sized turbines covering more than 25 square miles of ocean, yet the turbine poles themselves occupy only two-thirds of an acre and the entire project would qualify for a permit;
  • Sensitive areas can be piecemealed to death with thousands of individual projects, each receiving a Nationwide permit, such as dispersed photovoltaic arrays; and
  • The exemptions also cover parking lots, roads, power lines and other “attendant facilities”.

“This is all about paving over places that are needed for our ecological health” said New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a former regional wetlands coordinator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “These exemptions are not narrowly constructed. They are written to create open-ended blanket exemptions that are not subject to further review. The need to move from carbon-based power should not become a pretext for trashing habitat.”

These Corps proposals are still in draft form but are intended for submission to the Federal Register for a 60-day public comment period. The Corps has made no public announcements about its timetable.


See the Corps draft new Nationwide Permits

Look at continuing loss of wetlands due to regulatory failure 

Review environmental controversy surrounding Cape Wind

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. Seldom Seen Smith
    November 9th, 2010 at 21:49 | #1

    This is a shell game. NJ is going down the same path by calling solar panels “farming”, classifying their use as “inherently beneficial” as they relate to the MULL, and essentially exempting them from storm water requirements. Only the poles are considered impervious, but it’s obvious that that so much suspended impervious will have a run-off impacts unless a gutter system is installed.
    For now this type of “farming” is not exempt from NJ Wetlands Rules, but that lawsuit is just around the corner. With all of the brownfields, corporate lawns, and tall buildings in this state, do we still have to pave farms and clear forests for clean energy?

  2. November 9th, 2010 at 22:21 | #2

    It was corn for biofuels under the Democrats and now it’s solar panels under the Repuklicans. Solar panels are better than farms selling out to developers building McMansions but it isn’t open space. Farms get gov’t subsidies in England. Although that sounds like socialism, the purpose is more for security reasons. England doesn’t want to be reliant on other countries for food. The same could be said for clean drinking water. That is even more important than energy independence.

  3. Seldom Seen Smith
    November 10th, 2010 at 19:09 | #3

    Farmers are subsidised in this county too, in the form of property tax breaks, cost sharing, and exemptions from various laws. All of these things were done because we as a society know that food comes from somehere and you can’t create a farm out of thin air when ever you need a farm product. What we have to decide is if we as a societly will reap the same benefits from a solar farm that we would from a food/fiber farm, and are the exemptions as crucial as they are to a food farm, or are they just a free ride for what amounts to development. I think we are on our way to subsidising corprate farms for their own monetray gain with reduced societal return. We get clean energy out of the deal, but it will still cost you and I the same. If thats good enough, so be it. But I hope we keep enough farmland to grow food.

  4. Bart Sutton
    November 18th, 2010 at 08:45 | #4

    According to the “new” DEP Priorities for 2010 this would seem to be a case where our state goals are in conflict the the Army Corps of Engineers. But as we see in Union Beach the DEP and Christies administration there’s always an excuse not to stick to their own policies. If DEP would look into the actual amount of energy that a turbine consumes and calculate the NET benefit, they would have to allow little towns like Union Beach to keep the Industrial Size Turbines from ruining what the global warming study refers to as “critical habitat” because there is almost NO BENEFIT. The actual energy produced minus the turbines own consumption is on a par with a smaller solar array that poses less threat to people and wildlife.

  1. No trackbacks yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.