Remember the Interior Department’s ongoing investigation into possible abuses of the Royalty-in-Kind program? Now the department’s Inspector General has started to look into possible abuses by companies seeking to develop renewable energies on BLM land.
Three years ago, BLM received six applications for solar energy projects. In the last year? 130, including one for 300,000 acres from Cogentrix Solar Investments.
The focus of the investigation is renewable energy companies as well as speculators that have applications pending for BLM leases and are seeking to be acquired based on the value of those applications.
According to the LA Times:
Officials said last week that the inspector general’s office of the Department of the Interior was investigating Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar Inc.’s recent acquisition of Hayward, Calif.-based OptiSolar, and its unfinished renewable energy projects, for $400 million.The deal gave First Solar control of what the company described as OptiSolar’s “strategic land rights” to 136,000 acres of public land in San Bernardino, Riverside and Kern counties.
In acquiring OptiSolar, First Solar acquired the lease applications, not the land itself. Those applications are no guarantee according to Greg Miller of the BLM.
“There is no value associated with a mere application, which could be rejected by us for a variety of reasons,” Miller told the Times.
As a result, application approvals for solar energy projects have been suspended while officials sort out what’s going on.
Read more at:
“Renewable Energy Sparks a Probe of a Modern-Day Land Rush,”
Los Angeles Times, June 1, 2009.