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OPINION

Biden’s Onshore Wind Goals Will Devastate Idaho’s Magic Valley

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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A proposed wind energy project on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land pending approval by the Biden administration would devastate southern Idaho’s Magic Valley region.

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The Lava Ridge Wind Project, if approved, would comprise 400 turbines across 73,000 acres of BLM lands spanning Jerome, Lincoln and Minidoka counties. Individual turbines could stand as tall as 740 feet. Magic Valley Energy - a subsidiary of the New York-based LS Power–is propping this project up. They claim it’ll generate 1,000 megawatts of power and commence operation as early as 2025. LS Power also has plans for an additional 300 wind turbines near Lava Ridge: the Salmon Falls Wind Project.

But do Magic Valley residents support Lava Ridge as the White House does? The support is hardly there.

I traveled to the region last August for my CFACT “Conservation Nation” video series to interview locals about their opposition to Lava Ridge.

Why does the Biden administration want this particular wind project built? Why the urgency? This site would help the administration “meet” their goal of supplying “25 gigawatts of onshore renewable energy by 2025” and  achieve “100% clean electricity by 2035 and a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050.” Unsurprisingly, this boondoggle is expected to be subsidized by renewable tax credits contained in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The Department of Interior will issue its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pertaining to Lava Ridge on January 13th, 2023. Once live, the public will have 60 days to submit their comments. A final notice of intent to prepare the EIS was initially issued in August 2021.

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It claims, “Magic Valley Energy's, LLC (MVE) goal for Lava Ridge is to construct and operate a commercial-scale wind energy facility that reliably and economically produces wind energy for delivery to power markets in the western United States.”

“Renewable wind projects are a critical component of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to confronting climate change, promoting clean air and water for our current and future generations, creating thousands of good-paying union jobs, and jump starting our country’s transition to a clean energy future,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in the August 2021 press release. “At the Interior Department, we are doing our part to ensure these projects are done thoughtfully and avoid impacts to surrounding communities. The Department is committed to public input and meaningful Tribal consultation to uphold our trust and treaty responsibilities.”

Insistence on phasing out oil and gas for wind energy is unsustainable. Wind is intermittent and not reliable. According to the Department of Energy, wind turbines are noisy and “alter visual aesthetics.” It added, “Wind farms have different impacts on the environment compared to conventional power plants, but similar concerns exist over both the noise produced by the turbine blades and the visual impacts on the landscape.” The agency also says the presence of these behemoth structures results in increased wind turbine-wildlife conflicts. 

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Therein lies a paradox in so-called renewable energy projects: The environment must be exploited–even destroyed–to achieve net-zero goals. 

The majority of Idahoans, regardless of politics, oppose the project on various grounds. Concerns about electricity generation shortcomings, noise pollution, destruction of natural resources, raptor killings, wildlife migration interruptions, and threats to precious natural wonders.

Two public land areas managed by the National Park Service –Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve to the north and Minidoka National Historic Site in the south, would be threatened by Lava Ridge. 

For instance, Minidoka–a Japanese internment camp that imprisoned 13,000 people between 1942-1945–is listed as one of 11 endangered places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“We are extremely disturbed by the proposed wind project and its disregard for the sacredness of Minidoka National Historic Site where 13,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were unjustly incarcerated during World War II,” said Robyn Achilles, Executive Director for Friends of Minidoka, in a May 2022 press release. “Minidoka is a memorial to all those who suffered at the site. Survivors and their descendants make emotional pilgrimages to Minidoka where they remember, heal, and share stories to ensure these violations of civil liberties do not happen again. Minidoka is our past and our future.”

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Where are the preservationists? Their silence is deafening. And naturally, they reveal themselves to be hypocrites who don’t care about the environment. 

If the project moves ahead, critics worry their region would lose its magic. Worse, the energy generated would be shipped out-of-state to power California and Nevada.

Dean Dimond, one of the farmers I interviewed, said there’s much to lose in rural America if projects like Lava Ridge proceed.

“I am afraid no matter what the local BLM does…their bosses - [the] Biden administration - are pushing for it. So I'm a little bit afraid no matter what they do, the Biden administration is going to come in and override it,” Dimond explained.

Lava Ridge Wind Project, as proposed, would be the largest onshore wind operation of its kind built. But it won’t be the last. 

IOPScience observed, “Wind and solar, like all energy systems, occupy land, displacing natural systems, agriculture, and human communities.” 

Magic Valley residents foresee the lasting damage that would result from this invasive project. They just wish Washington put people before Big Wind payouts.

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