By Laura Mulry, Fellow, Center for Climate Change, Columbia Law School
April 2011 was an eventful month for massive solar projects in California and their unlikely opponent: the desert tortoise. As climate change, overpopulation, and development place ever more plant and animal species at risk of extinction, prominent environmental groups, Native Americans, and local residents have brought a string of lawsuits to stop construction of large solar plants throughout the state in pristine areas, most notably the Mohave Desert, that are showing extreme vulnerability to climate change. Courts and federal agencies now face the question whether to allow the deployment of technologies that combat the environmental effects of climate change, but whose mere development in the race to fight climate change will also harm species in their immediate areas.
Two recent California court decisions from mid-April have resulted in victories for solar developers over local environmental concerns.
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