The Center for Public Integrity reports that funds from the stimulus package for clean power and energy efficiency were issued with “sweeping exemptions” from basic environmental oversight. According to the report, the Obama administration has given out 179,000 exemptions for stimulus package-funded projects, enabling the projects to skip the lengthy review under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The idea behind the exemptions are that the benefits of projects that lead to more clean power, energy efficiency and green jobs outweighs the environmental drawbacks. But The Center for Public Integrity points out that a variety of the green projects funded by the stimulus package are being developed by companies with significant records of being polluters, including Duke Energy, Westar Energy, DuPont, and ethanol maker Didion Milling.
The administration told the researchers that it didn’t have time to review companies’ previous pollution records in accordance to awarding stimulus funds, and also the administration doesn’t think that pollution violations in general should affect stimulus funding. However, the report points out some more egregious examples, including how Didion Milling was awarded a stimulus grant a month after a federal judge ruled its plant had violated the clean-water law many times.
When it comes to certain sensitive cases like biofuel plants or massive solar farms, I think the report has many valid points. At the same time, there are already many critics that say that the greentech stimulus funds haven’t been allocated fast enough, and NEPA reviews would have added months, if not years, to the process.
The report also lumps in smart grid stimulus funds along with other more environmentally-sensitive clean power projects. Yet adding IT — wireless networks, software, sensors systems — won’t have much more environmental impact than the power grids that the smart grid tech is updating, so I’m not sure how helpful a lengthy environmental review would be. And the smart grid industry would certainly argue with long environmental reviews. What do you think?
To read more on the smart grid check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):
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- Smart Algorithms: The Future of the Energy Industry
Image courtesy of Brooke Anderson.