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Lava Ridge Wind Energy Project Ignores Idaho Concerns

Idaho officials must feel like exhausted parents of independent toddlers. As any parent of young kids can relate to when you tell toddlers, “Don’t do it,” you really hope they won’t because if they ignore you there will be a mess.


A mess is exactly what Idaho elected officials are facing this week after they told the Bureau of Land Management “Don’t do it” in regard to the proposed Lava Ridge Wind Energy Project last fall. The federal bill, “Don’t Develop Obstructive Infrastructure on our Terrain Act” would require the Secretary of the Interior to deny solar or wind energy projects that were opposed by the state legislature. The bill has only been introduced and has not moved forward. Mountain States Policy Center wrote on this issue.


This week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced the project is still moving forward. Though the proposed ‘mess’ of the federal government is not as big as originally designed, it still promotes California’s green energy priorities over the priorities of Idaho residents.


Idaho officials are voicing new concerns about the mess Lava Ridge makes of federal overreach, grazing permits, recreational use, prioritizing California over local Idahoans, and aviation paths.


Governor Little said:

“This is the latest example of the Biden Administration’s unsound energy agenda. The BLM is determined to give California electricity from Idaho despite overwhelming opposition from Idahoans and contrary to formal actions by Idaho’s county, state, and federal elected officials, including federal legislation and federal law.  It may not matter in Washington D.C., but it matters to those of us who live here.” 


Lt. Governor Bedke echoed the frustration by saying:

“Ranching, farming, and recreation are a major part of the Magic Valley’s heritage…the BLM disregarded Idahoan’s input on a project that is in our backyard and, instead, favored Californians energy needs. Simply put, California will reap the benefits and Idaho will get all the negative impacts. We will know California is serious about green energy when we see wind turbines in Hollywood’s hills.”


In addition to these concerns, Senators Crapo and Risch and Congressman Simpson all made statements on the Lava Ridge Project. Additionally, State Attorney General Raul Labrador filed an appeal with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) fighting the project. The filing states:

“If built, the wind turbines would increase the difficulty and safety risks of performing aerial applications that are already quite difficult and risky. In some locations, or under certain conditions, the increased difficulty and risk may effectively preclude aerial applications to the crops or fields."


Unfortunately, for opponents of the Lava Ridge Wind Energy Project in Idaho, the Bureau of Land Management is still moving forward, albeit with a smaller scope. The new proposal would reduce the project by almost 50%, from 400 turbines to 241, removing them from sensitive historical and natural areas, and limiting the height to 660 feet (still taller than the Seattle Space Needle).


Some activists are praising the move saying, “the Lava Ridge Wind Energy Project would help Idaho become more energy independent.” 


But in the trade of any commodity, especially electricity, independence is not only a myth but a damaging pursuit. Think about the consequences of pursuing production independence in any commodity. We talked with Todd Myers, current Vice President and former Environmental Director with Washington Policy Center. Myers said:


“States should not be energy independent. We are not car independent, or steel independent, or software independent or even food independent. Thank God we don’t require Washington or Idaho to be coffee independent. Build things where they make sense and trade.

Additionally, electricity doesn’t work that way. We not only trade with other states in the aggregate, we trade at different times of the year and even within the day. Electricity independence is such a monumentally dishonest concept.”


It is appreciated that the BLM reduced the size of the project and relocated the wind farm away from historically sensitive areas, but the voices of today’s Idahoans have been largely ignored in favor of out-of-state interests.


The Lava Ridge Wind Energy Project overlooks the realistic outcomes of its design. Pursuing energy independence denies the benefits of trade and competitive and comparative advantages between states. Wind energy is usually inefficient at the hours of peak demand. Idaho ranchers, farmers, and recreators will be burdened while California benefits.


Now the frustrated officials who said, “Don’t Do It,” need to find a way to negotiate with the federal government. Hopefully, the Idaho elected officials will be able to gain traction through the judicial or legislative system, because the federal executive branch appears set to continue to ignore Idaho residents.

*Image Generated using Midjourney AI and edited and composed with Photoshop by MSPC

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