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Poorly Located Industrial-Scale Solar Power Projects Threaten Public Lands
By Dr. Guy DiDonato, David Lamfrom and Elizabeth Myers
Location, location, location. These simple but wise words apply to homebuyers and business owners alike. They also apply to energy developers—some places just are not suitable for industrial-scale projects, including lands adjacent to our national parks.
In recent years, there has been a significant push to develop industrial-scale solar developments in the deserts of the Southwest. Abundant sunlight, large areas of relatively flat land and vast public acreage make six southwestern states—California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico—prime locations to generate clean solar energy. To guide future solar development, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has developed what is known as a “programmatic environmental impact statement” (PEIS)—basically, a guiding document for where developers can build these solar arrays—that includes three alternative management strategies. The agency will soon decide which of these three alternatives to pursue:
- The no-action alternative allows development on 99 million acres of BLM land across this region.
- The second alternative (and the one preferred by the BLM) encourages development in designated solar energy zones (285,000 acres), but also leaves an additional 19 million acres of BLM land open for solar development (these lands are known as “variance” lands).
- The third alternative restricts future solar energy development to designated solar energy zones only.
BLM is ready to decide between these alternatives and seems poised to select the second alternative listed above, which would encourage development in solar energy zones but allow, under certain circumstances, development on variance lands. Solar development on some of these variance lands might lead to significant resource concerns for some of the 80 national park units in this region. The National Park Service has identified areas of land around 53 national parks and six national historic trails where, if industrial solar development were permitted to occur, significant conflicts with park resources and values would result. Some of the lands potentially available for solar development flank Death Valley National Park to the east and nearly abut Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park. In Nevada, BLM variance lands encircle Great Basin National Park and border Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Solar developments, under the second alternative above, could creep up to the border of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and crowd up against Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Location, location, location, indeed. NPCA believes that lands that abut, surround, and flank our national parks are not suitable for industrial-scale solar development. These developments would fragment habitat, impede wildlife movement, threaten rare and endangered species, and mar scenic views, potentially reducing the economic value and resource values associated with our most treasured national places. Other excellent alternatives exist: using brownfields and other disturbed public lands, continuing to develop rooftop solar resources on the existing built environment, and supporting projects of all sizes on suitable private lands.
Solar energy is an important component in our national energy portfolio. But many public lands are simply unacceptable places to build solar energy facilities due to the negative consequences to our national parks. The Department of Interior has been entrusted with the responsibility of guarding our most sensitive lands, waters and species for future generations—it needs to make the safekeeping of these protected lands its top priority.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
Dr. Guy DiDonato is the natural resources program manager for the NPCA's Center for Park Research. David Lamfrom is NPCA's California desert senior program manager. Elizabeth Meyers is the information and outreach manager for the Center for Park Research.
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Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
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The coronavirus has resulted in stress, anxiety and fear – symptoms that might motivate a person to see a therapist. Because of social distancing, however, in-person sessions are less possible. For many, this has raised the prospect of online therapy. For clients in need of warmth and reassurance, could this work? Studies and my experience suggests it does.
Telehealth Versus Traditional Therapy<p><a href="https://www.cigna.com/hcpemails/telehealth/telehealth-flyer.pdf" target="_blank">Private insurance companies</a> like Cigna and Aetna, have come around; they now provide coverage for what they see as a "legitimate" service. And <a href="https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/american-wells-2019-consumer-survey-finds-majority-of-consumers-open-to-telehealth-adoption-continues-to-grow-300906438.html" target="_blank">surveys show</a> consumers are receptive to telehealth counseling: no driving to an appointment, no searching for a parking space, no worries about childcare while they're away, no need to switch providers if they move, and no problem if the specialist happens to be far away.</p><p>Online therapy opens doors for clients who wouldn't otherwise seek help, <a href="https://www.worldcat.org/title/empirical-examination-of-the-influence-of-personality-gender-role-conflict-and-self-stigma-on-attitudes-and-intentions-to-seek-online-counseling-in-college-students/oclc/941976505" target="_blank">particularly patients</a> who feel stigmatized by therapy or intimidated by a stranger sitting across the room from them. Often, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1089/1094931041291295" target="_blank">people open up</a> more easily in telehealth sessions. Firsthand accounts have detailed <a href="https://www.romper.com/p/i-tried-online-therapy-for-a-month-this-is-what-happened-13630" target="_blank">positive experiences from consumers</a>.</p>
Overcoming Prejudices About Online Counseling<p>Now COVID-19 is forcing most traditional psychotherapists to adapt their practice to <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/expressive-trauma-integration/202003/covid-19-etherapy-in-times-isolation" target="_blank">online counseling</a>. After experiencing the medium, they are <a href="https://www.wecounsel.com/blog/why-every-therapist-in-private-practice-needs-a-telehealth-option/" target="_blank">overcoming their prejudices</a>. Many will convert some or all of their caseloads to telehealth after the pandemic ends. Most of our clients seem to be good with it: responding to a satisfaction survey, 85% of USF students strongly or somewhat agreed their telehealth experience was comparable to an in-person visit.</p><p>All this allows a continuity of care for clients that before was impossible; there is, however, a caveat. Because of the coronavirus, some of my clients at USF who live out-of-state have moved back home. That means, legally, I can no longer serve them. Even though they are still USF students, my license is valid only in Florida.</p><p>For telehealth to work effectively, our national system of licensing and regulation law needs to adapt. Although the federal government temporarily halted HIPAA regulations to promote telehealth during this time, not all states are allowing out-of-state practice. The coronavirus may not be here forever, but spring break and Christmas holidays always will. We need seamless telehealth across state lines.</p>
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