U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, told Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar during a hearing this morning that “if we can think of an appropriate place to put these enormous renewable energy projects, we should require the developers to put up a bond to take them down in case they stop being used.
“The current subsidies for some energy projects might end and prices and technologies could change, and if that happens we need to make sure we have something in place to restore our landscapes. Right now, there are 47,000 abandoned mines in the state of California alone,” Alexander told Secretary Salazar. “And if, for example, 20 percent of our electricity were to come from wind, it would take 130,000, 50-story-high wind turbines to generate that capacity. We should require developers to put up a bond for removing them so that 20 years from now we don’t have to come up with ‘abandoned windmill’ legislation, as Senator Feinstein has proposed to deal with abandoned mines in California. People who put up these turbines should be required to take them down if they fall out of use.”
Alexander also expressed concerns about the siting of renewable energy projects, saying, “There needs to be a process to determine the appropriate locations for these new renewable energy projects. We need to make sure we aren’t destroying the environment in the name of saving the environment.”
Secretary Salazar said that requiring a bond for developers “makes sense,” and said that ensuring the environment is restored back to its original condition after a project has been decommissioned is a priority of his department.