Category Archives: Solar
Written by Warren Mass
The standoff between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) deescalated on April 12, when the bureau announced that it will stop its operation to confiscate Bundy’s cattle.
But another aspect to this ongoing story is jumping: The blogosphere is alive with allegations that Senator Harry Reid (pictured), and his son, Rory, have motivations of their own for wanting Bundy’s cattle off the disputed lands.
Though the major media announced that a “deal” had been reached between Bundy and the BLM, Bundy explained what transpired differently in an interview with KLAS TV in Las Vegas: “There is no deal here. The citizens of America and Clark County went and took their cattle. There was no negotiations. They took these cattle. They are in possession of these cattle and I expect them to come home soon.”
The BLM stated in its statement released on April 12: “Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public.”
The BLM’s language made apparent that the bureau still regarded its actions “to remove illegal cattle from federal land consistent with court orders” as being legally justified:
This is a matter of fairness and equity, and we remain disappointed that Cliven Bundy continues to not comply with the same laws that 16,000 public lands ranchers do every year. After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million. The BLM will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially.
As William F. Jasper noted in his April 11 article about the standoff, however, there was more to the federal action to remove Bundy’s cattle from “public lands” (where they are, allegedly, damaging the “fragile” habitat of the protected desert tortoise) than has been widely reported:
According to Bundy, whose family has been ranching in the area since the 1800s, the BLM’s armed invasion and occupation of Nevada has nothing to do with protecting the tortoise and everything to do with running him off the land, as it has already done to all of the other ranchers in Clark County.
As for the BLM’s assertion that its actions “to remove illegal cattle” are legally justified, among the many points that Joe Wolverton II made in his April 12 article charging that the seizure of Bundy’s cattle was unconstitutional was this citation from Section 1 of the Nevada constitution, titled “Inalienable Rights”:
All men are by Nature free and equal and have certain inalienable rights among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; Acquiring, Possessing and Protecting property and pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.
Wolverton observed: “Despite the Nevada constitution’s capitulation to supreme federal authority (authority, remember, that does not exist in the Constitution) … it could be argued [that the above-quoted language from Section 1] supersedes the other article’s cession of state and popular sovereignty.”
That which is unconstitutional, therefore, cannot properly be called legal.
As the tension between Bundy and the BLM ratchets down, a number of conservative bloggers and pundits have raised questions about another angle in this case: Does the BLM want Bundy’s cattle off the land his family has worked for over 140 years in order to free up the land for the construction of solar panel power stations?
That question was prompted, in part, by since-deleted information previously posted on the BLM website, information retrieved from Google’s cache.
The text of a BLM document retrieved from Google’s cache and posted by Liberty News Online contains the following chronology of events:
• “In 1993, some of the terms of Mr. Bundy’s grazing permit for the Bunkerville allotment were modified to protect the desert tortoise.”
• “In 1998, the United States filed a civil complaint against Mr. Bundy for his continued trespass grazing in the Bunkerville Allotment.”
• “In 1999, the Las Vegas Field Office Resource Management Plan designated the Bunkerville allotment as ‘Closed to Grazing’ to protect desert tortoise habitat.”
• “In March 2011, BLM counted 903 cattle from a helicopter spread out over approximately 90 miles in northeast Clark County within the Gold Butte area … 41 percent had either brands or earmarks registered to Cliven Bundy.”
• “In May 2012, the United States filed a Complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for Cliven Bundy’s trespass grazing within the Gold Butte area outside the Bunkerville Allotment.”
A PDF of the BLM’s document, “Regional Mitigation strategy for the Dry Lake Solar energy Zone: Technical Note 444,” produced by the BLM in March, can be found online.
Technical Note 444 states that the “’Regional Mitigation Strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone’ recommends a strategy for compensating for certain unavoidable impacts that are expected from the development of the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone (SEZ) in southern Nevada.”
Technical Note 444 states: “The resource values found in the Gold Butte ACEC are threatened by: unauthorized activities, including off-road vehicle use, illegal dumping, and trespass livestock grazing ; wildfire; and weed infestation.” (Emphasis added.)
The above-referenced BLM “Technical Note 444” specifically mentions the Gold Butte Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) 76 times. While the document expresses many environmental concerns, including “trespass livestock grazing,” it is important to keep in mind that the title of the document reveals the BLM’s ultimate objective, which is to create a “solar energy zone.”
One of the references listed in Technical Note 444 is “Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for Solar Energy Development in Six Southwestern States. FES 12- 24, DOE/EIS-0403,” published jointly by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The PEIS, notes TN 444, “assessed the impact of utility-scale solar energy development on public lands in the six southwestern states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.”
The BLM and the DOE’s joint venture is — stated concerns about tortoises aside — about the generation of solar energy.
An article published by The New American in September 20012 noted that Rory Reid, the eldest son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), is the chief representative for ENN Energy Group, a Chinese firm planning to build a $5-billion solar plant on public land in Laughlin, Nevada.
The plan generated a great deal of controversy because Clark County officials voted to sell ENN the public land for $4.5 million, a figure far below its $38.6-million appraised value.
It is important to recognize that the land on which Bundy grazes his cattle is not the same land that ENN sought near Laughlin, which is over 200 miles away. However, the Bundy grazing land is within the BLM’s Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone, an area the BLM and DOW also want to use for “utility-scale solar energy development,” whether constructed by ENN or someone else. As blogger and candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from California’s 8th District Rodney Lee Conover recently wrote:
As part of the plan for the Dry Lake solar zone, any solar developers are expected to pay into a fund to “mitigate” the Gold Butte area. However, the “mitigation” activities can’t take place with cattle grazing in the area. If the mitigation doesn’t take place, no money for the BLM.
Conover’s assertions are supported by the BLM’s document entitled “Cattle Trespass Impacts,” which states that grazing by Bundy’s cattle “impacts” solar development, more specifically the construction of “utility-scale solar power generation facilities” on “public lands.”
“Non-Governmental Organizations have expressed concern that the regional mitigation strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone utilizes Gold Butte as the location for offsite mitigation for impacts from solar development, and that those restoration activities are not durable with the presence of trespass cattle,” an article by Kit Daniels posted by Infowars quoted the document.
Motivations are not always easy to prove, but in this case, Senator Reid’s hand has shown up more than once. The BLM’s principal deputy director, Neil Kornze, previously served as Senator Reid’s senior policy advisor. And we have noted Rory Reid’s role as the chief representative for China’s ENN Energy Group, which has sought to develop solar energy in Nevada. Whether these suspicions are proof of wrongful or illegal acts remains to be seen.
However, one thing is evident from what has transpired in Nevada: The federal government has reneged on a long-standing arrangement made by a rancher in good faith by which he and his family have earned a living for generations. In so doing, they have run roughshod over the rights of a U.S. citizen and have employed constitutionally dubious means to do so. If justice prevails, some judge with respect for the Constitution may follow the example of Chief Judge Robert C. Jones of the Federal District Court of Nevada. Last year — in the case of U.S. v. Hage — Jones issued an impassioned preliminary bench ruling in which he charged federal officials of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with an ongoing series of illegal actions against Nevada rancher E. Wayne Hage. Jones described the bureaucrats’ actions as “abhorrent” and a literal, criminal conspiracy.
Which is a pretty apt description of the BLM’s recent actions against Cliven Bundy.
Connect the Dots :: Obama Administration Approves ,Roadmap for Utility-Scale Solar Energy Development on Public Lands
10/12/2012 Contact: Blake Androff (DOI) 202-208-6416
David Quick (BLM) 202-912-7413
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to expand domestic energy production, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today finalized a program for spurring development of solar energy on public lands in six western states. The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for solar energy development provides a blueprint for utility-scale solar energy permitting in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah by establishing solar energy zones with access to existing or planned transmission, incentives for development within those zones, and a process through which to consider additional zones and solar projects.
Today’s action builds on the Administration’s historic progress to facilitate renewable energy development. On Tuesday, with the authorization of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project site in Wyoming, Interior reached the President’s goal of authorizing 10,000 megawatts of renewable power on public lands. Since 2009, Interior has authorized 33 renewable energy projects, including 18 utility-scale solar facilities, 7 wind farms and 8 geothermal plants, with associated transmission corridors and infrastructure. When built, these projects will provide enough electricity to power more than 3.5 million homes, and support 13,000 construction and operations jobs according to project developer estimates.
“Energy from sources like wind and solar have doubled since the President took office, and with today’s milestone, we are laying a sustainable foundation to keep expanding our nation’s domestic energy resources,” said Secretary Salazar, who signed today’s Record of Decision at an event in Las Vegas, Nevada with Senator Harry Reid. “This historic initiative provides a roadmap for landscape-level planning that will lead to faster, smarter utility-scale solar development on public lands and reflects President Obama’s commitment to grow American made energy and create jobs.”
The Solar PEIS establishes an initial set of 17 Solar Energy Zones (SEZs), totaling about 285,000 acres of public lands, that will serve as priority areas for commercial-scale solar development, with the potential for additional zones through ongoing and future regional planning processes (emphasis mine). If fully built out, projects in the designated areas could produce as much as 23,700 megawatts of solar energy, enough to power approximately 7 million American homes. The program also keeps the door open, on a case-by-case basis, for the possibility of carefully sited solar projects outside SEZs on about 19 million acres in “variance” areas. The program also includes a framework for regional mitigation plans, and to protect key natural and cultural resources the program excludes a little under 79 million acres that would be inappropriate for solar development based on currently available information.
“The Solar PEIS sets forth an enduring, flexible blueprint for developing utility-scale solar projects in the right way, and in the right places, on our public lands,” said David J. Hayes, Deputy Secretary of the Interior. “Never before has the Interior Department worked so closely and collaboratively with the industry, conservationists and sportsmen alike to develop a sound, long-term plan for generating domestic energy from our nation’s sun-drenched public lands.”
The signing of the Record of Decision today follows the July release of the Final PEIS, a comprehensive analysis done in partnership with the Department of Energy that identified locations on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands most suitable for solar energy development. These areas are characterized by excellent solar resources, access to existing or planned transmission and relatively low conflict with biological, cultural and historic resources.
“We are proud to be a part of this initiative to cut through red tape and accelerate the development of America’s clean, renewable energy,” said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “There is a global race to develop renewable energy technologies—and this effort will help us win this race by expanding solar energy production while reducing permitting costs.”
Today’s action is in line with the President’s direction to continue to expand domestic energy production, safely and responsibly. Since President Obama took office, domestic oil and gas production has increased each year, with domestic oil production at an eight-year high, natural gas production at an all-time high, and foreign oil imports now accounting for less than 50 percent of the oil consumed in America – the lowest level since 1995.
Jul 21, 2012 by Marita Noon
As we dig deeper in the green-energy crony corruption-story, it begins to sound more and more like the making of a big-budget Hollywood thriller. Today’s installment on First Solar includes billionaire investors, corporate welfare, favoritism, threats, exaggerations, lawsuits over inferior quality, layoffs and outsourcing, and even a romantic dalliance. The screenplay would be riveting. Too bad it is not fiction. The film would have to be a documentary.
The trailer would open: “What do Goldman Sachs, several Goldman executives, and quite a few billionaire investors have in common? Add in millions of campaign donations followed by billions doled out of the 2009-stimulus package along with a ‘who’s who’ list of high-powered energy connections. Throw in a lead lobbyist with frequent White House visits and an active, yet connected board member.” Dark clouds would roll in as the music comes to a crescendo. The narrator continues: “Along the way, drama and trouble emerge. The CEO sells his own stock, jobs are going overseas. Accusations of money laundering materialize, and inside investigations point to a shady scheme within a solar energy company. The firm in question is implicated—as well as the Department of Energy.” Bold text pops up on the screen: “The First Solar Swindle” Smaller text: “Opening in theaters nationwide…”
Yes, all of this drama can be found in one company with interconnected ties to the Obama White House!
Last week, we wrapped up Senator Harry Reid’s connection to four firms—representing billions in taxpayer money—also part of the green-energy, crony-corruption story. Three of the four are in Reid’s home state: Nevada Geothermal, Ormat Nevada, and SolarReserve; while both SolarReserve and BrightSource Energy have multiple and significant ties to the President.
Now, we move on to the next three of our Special Seven series––those that received the Department of Energy loans (even though the companies were rated as “non-investment” grade) and grants, as a part of the stimulus spending spree. Additionally, these seven companies received “special” Department of Interior (DOI) treatment through a March 11, 2009 Secretarial Order, which the Washington Free Beacon described as a means “To fast track the siting of renewable energy projects on public lands managed by the agency.”
This chapter exposes First Solar.
From the introduction of this serialized book, the thumbnail says:
First Solar manufacturers “thin film” solar modules and is now moving into project development. While First Solar is not in the “junk bond” list, they do hold the unique distinction of being the single worst performer in the SPX in 2011. Additionally, they are linked to three junk-bond projects: Aqua Caliente (AZ), BB+; Antelope Valley Solar Ranch (CA), BBB-; and Desert Sunlight (CA), BBB-. First Solar was an early green investment of Goldman Sachs—which gave more than $1 million to the 2008 Obama campaign. Goldman Sachs executives sat on Obama’s 2008 Finance Committee and others were bundlers. In Throw Them All Out, Peter Schweizer reports on First Solar investor Paul Tudor Jones, who was a 2008 Obama bundler, and First Solar CEO Michael Ahearn, who “gives generously (and exclusively) to Democrats.”
First Solar Swindle cast of characters:
Goldman Sachs Investor and Top 2008 Obama Donor
First Solar was an early investment of Goldman Sachs, the number two Top Obama Donorthat gave more than $1 million dollars to his 2008 campaign––plus, the Obama administration “is infested” with Goldman Sachs executives.
Bruce Heyman and David Heller sat on Obama’s 2008 Finance Committee
Bruce Heyman and Jennifer Scully were 2008 Obama bundlers
Two Goldman executives sat on Obama’s 2008 Finance Committee, Bruce Heyman and David Heller, while Heyman, along with Jennifer Scully, was also a 2008 Obama bundler. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Ms. Scully raised $100,000, but didn’t make any large donations personally; Mr. Heyman bundled $50,000 in donations, including a $10,000 contribution he made and Goldman executive, David Heller, donated $25,000.”
Michael Ahearn CEO First Solar
Pages 91-92 of Peter Switzer’s book Throw Them All Out says: “Ahearn gives generously (and exclusively) to Democrats.”
Ted Turner Billionaire Investor
From Throw Them All Out: “The biggest investors [in First Solar] include billionaire Ted Turner, a big financial backer of Obama’s 2008 campaign.”
Paul Tudor Jones Billionaire Investor
“Another Obama bundler, also owns a stake in First Solar.”
Whitney Tilson Ultra-wealthy Obama Supporter
Obama ally and a member of “Patriotic Millionaires” (a group of wealthy Obama supporters backing the president’s effort to raise taxes on high-earners), is “Ultra-wealthy Obama supporter Whitney Tilson,” reports the Washington Free Beacon. It turns out that “One of the few ‘winners’ in Tilson’s portfolio was his short position in First Solar, a company on the brink of collapse, despite receiving more than $3 billion in federal loan guarantees from the Obama administration.”
Former Vice President Al Gore Generation Investment Management co-founder
Other Wealthy First Solar Investors who are heavily involved in clean-energy include: Generation Investment Management (GIM) co-founded in 2004 by former chief executive of Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Former Vice President Al Gore.
David Shaw Obama bundler
Jose Villarreal First Solar board member
Also a board member for the Center for American Progress, a left-wing think tank, closely tied to the administration, which lobbied for green energy loans.
Kathleen Weiss Vice President of Government Relations
The lead lobbyist for First Solar, Kathleen Weiss, Heritage’s Scribe reports, “has had numerous meetings at the White House, according to visitor logs. She has met with senior White House official Valerie Jarrett, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal, among others.”
First Solar Swindle scene outline:
The First Solar Swindle takes place in several locations as they have three distinct projects.
Antelope Valley Solar Ranch, California—Rating BBB- by Fitch, September 2011, DOE loan for $646 million––was purchased by Exelon Corp, yet First Solar, which developed the project, “will build, operate, and maintain the project.” Exelon Corp. was another 2008 Obama donor, and the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch project has a 25-year purchase power agreement from PG&E as well.
During Obama’s run for the presidency, Exelon’s employees continued to give, contributing at least $200,000 during Obama’s 2008 campaign. Exelon board member John Rogers Jr. was a top Obama bundler, hauling in at least $500,000. Bloomberg reported that former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel worked on the $8.2 billion merger that created Exelon in 2000, and former senior adviser David Axelrod had ownership in a consulting business that had Exelon as a client.
Desert Sunlight, California––Rating BBB, by Fitch; September 2011, DOE loan for $1.2 billion—was sold to NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, the competitive energy subsidiary of NextEra Energy, Inc. and GE Energy Financial Services. Yet, the September announcement also states that “First Solar will continue to build and subsequently operate and maintain the project under separate agreements.” Both CEO’s are on President Obama’s Job Council, Lewis Hay of NextEra Energy and Jeffrey Immelt of GE (another top Obama donor, donating $529,855 to his 2008 campaign). GE has raked in over $3 billion of stimulus money, and counting.
Agua Caliente, Arizona––Rating BB+ by Fitch, August 2011, DOE loan for $967 million––was purchased from First Solar by NRG Solar, LLC, and a subsidiary of NRG Energy. The plant would supply power to PG&E, and be made with panels from the Tempe-based First Solar Inc. Billionaire George Soros, a 2008 Obama donor, who “gave advice and direction on how President Obama should allocate so-called stimulus money in a series of regular private meetings and consultations with White House senior advisers,” owns more than half a million shares of NRG Energy.
First Solar Swindle synopsis:
First Solar sought to create turnkey projects with the assistance of DOE loan guarantees and direct loans.
A Government Accountability Office report found that the Energy Department loan program skipped steps in its review process when evaluating loans, while in some cases it was impossible to determine if the review steps were even completed. The DOE apparently manipulated its analysis and strategically modified evaluations in order to issue loans to First Solar. Through the funding of First Solar’s projects, favoritism was shown, as regulations may have been violated that required innovativeness and that allows for only one technology per project sponsor—which may have been why the projects were sold as soon as the loans were funded. (Did they think we wouldn’t notice?)
Layoffs and Outsourcing
Since DOE finalized First Solar’s three loan guarantees (for over $3 billion), First Solar has encountered serious financial problems that put the DOE funded projects in jeopardy. First Solar’s stock declined the greatest compared to any S&P 500 companies in 2011 and has lost more than $100 per share over the past year. First Solar has cut production of its solar panels worldwide. Based upon the company’s financial troubles, First Solar fired its CEO in October 2011. In April 2012, First Solar laid off 2000 workers and closed factories. In May, a massive round of furloughs was announced. In a May 16, 2012 hearing, CEO Michael Ahern admitted: “in sheer numbers, most of our full-time employees are outside the US.” Delay, as listed below, means that the indirect jobs that the White House wanted to create with the three loan guarantees will likely never materialize.
Inferior Quality and Lawsuits
Problems that directly impact First Solar’s DOE loan guarantee projects have been revealed. It was announced in late February that First Solar would postpone manufacturing solar panels at its Mesa Arizona plant, which is still under construction, because of financial problems. First Solar intended for the Mesa facility to provide panels to the First Solar projects. This delay raises questions about whether First Solar will have problems supplying solar panels to its DOE loan guarantee projects. Additionally, millions of dollars worth of its solar panels have had to be replaced under warranty because they did not last in hot climates. All three of First Solar’s DOE-based solar generation projects are located in hot desert climates—which raises serious concerns about whether the panels will work properly long term. According to the Phoenix Business Journal, “First Solar Inc. has been hit with an investor lawsuit in federal court, alleging the solar panel manufacturer misled investors over how much it would cost to replace defective panels.” Reports indicate that manufacturing flaws cost $253 million in replacement costs.
First Solar received a US Taxpayer loan guarantee to sell solar panels to itself! The subsidy came from the Import-Export Bank. In 2011, First Solar received $455.7 million to subsidize the sale of solar panels to two solar farms in Canada—owned by a small corporation called St. Clair Solar. But St. Clair Solar was a wholly owned subsidiary of First Solar.
First Solar’s CEO has admitted to selling more than 700,000 shares of his own stock netting him $68.5 million—though claiming that the company “remains financially strong and well positioned to execute through the current market environment.” HumanEvents.com reports “between 2008 and 2012––a period when First Solar’s stock value dropped by almost 95 percent––Ahearn sold over $450 million of his own company’s stock.”
Obama’s insistence on green-energy subsidies manifests itself as rank corporate welfare.
Threats and exaggeration
First Solar came under extreme heat in the House Oversight Investigation—“The First Solar Scheme” (pp. 29-38), noting a series of violations and application misrepresentation as well as “persistent pressure,” with even documents of a “threatening” letter to Jonathan Silver.
A First Solar investor puffed up the potential of these green projects: “Goldman Sachs Group Inc. plans to channel investments totaling $40 billion over the next decade into renewable energy projects, an area the investment bank called one of the biggest profit opportunities since its economists got excited about emerging markets in 2001.”
A Romantic Dalliance
Every movie needs some love. This is provided in the First Solar Swindle through senior DOE official Steve Black who leads the Renewable Energy Policy Group and NextEra Lobbyist Manal Yamout—who are in a romantic relationship.
An application that should otherwise fail, but instead passes under improper influence and through the manipulation of analysis, results in the defrauding of taxpayers and misappropriation of assets.
As the reporter for the First Solar Swindle, I’d like to be played by Cameron Diaz or Renee Zellweger. As the investigator, Christine Lakatos pictures Julia Roberts of the Pelican Brief playing her part. Yes, the First Solar Swindle will be a blockbuster—or should I say, it is a bank buster?
Author’s note: Thanks to Christine Lakatos, the Green Corruption blogger, for research assistance.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.