Who should decide how public land is developed in Idaho – local elected officials or unelected bureaucrats in Washington D.C.?
A new congressional bill introduced by Idaho Senator Jim Risch would place that decision back in the hands of Idaho policymakers, giving residents a means of blocking out-of-state interests.
New York investment company, LS Energy is concerned about the habitat of native species but not the homes and history of Idaho communities. Seeking to invest in wind energy projects, LS Energy created Magic Valley Energy to manage the currently proposed Lava Ridge Wind Project. LS Energy says it would benefit the local community, but the local community disagrees.
LS Energy considered many locations but wanted to avoid damaging undisturbed habitats to protect native species in other regions. LS Energy decided that due to fire damage and existing habitat disruption in the Magic Valley, the site 20 miles north of Twin Falls would be a good location for a 400-tower wind farm over 197,474 acres of federally, state, and privately owned land. One of the largest in the country. These 400 wind towers would truly tower over the landscape, with heights rivaling the size of the Seattle Space Needle. The project is expected to power 300,000 homes and provide significant tax revenues. However, most of this power is expected to be exported to other states.
The proposal was submitted to the Bureau of Land Management in 2020, and the local citizens are strongly opposed. At the close of the public comment in April 2023 11,000 submissions were registered by the BLM, and Magic Valley residents are united against the project citing disregard for local historical sites, economic concerns, environmental impacts, and the low aesthetic appeal of looking at over 197,000 acres of windmills.
But these voices of local impacted citizens could go unnoticed because the final decision rests with the Bureau of Land Management federal employees. Unelected officials, not accountable to the voice of local Idaho residents, will decide what version (if any) of the Lava Ridge Wind Project is approved. Current Biden Administration preferences for renewable energy projects is likely to favor wind and solar plans, like Lava Ridge, over the voices of impacted communities and citizens.
As out-of-state investors and federal land managers push for cumbersome energy projects and ignore the objections of residents, proposed legislation by Idaho Senator Jim Risch would stop this disregard. U.S. Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and Reps. Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher supported, “Don’t Develop Obstructive Infrastructure on our Terrain Act.”
The proposed ‘Don’t Do It’ legislation if enacted gives a voice and the means for states to block unwanted energy projects. Favoring local communities and state voices over federal initiatives is a win for citizens. The Don’t Do It bill would empower state legislatures with the ability to deny proposed energy projects on public lands.
Idaho’s Governor Brad Little voiced on X, “Idahoans have been loud and clear on Lava Ridge: Don’t DO IT! States need to be at the table driving new energy resources, and this legislation will make the federal government more responsive to states’ voices in future energy development.”
Instead of leaving the final approval of energy projects up to bureaucrats and out-of-state investors, states should be empowered with the ability to decide how they want their communities to look and how they will meet their own energy goals. Local citizens need a way for their voices to not only be submitted for comment but to be considered by elected officials that have to answer to them, not by bureaucrats in their offices in DC, waiting for the next administration change to dictate a priority shift. The Don’t Do It legislation would give local communities a say in what happens in their habitat, a step forward for good government.