At Greenbriar Capital, we believe that renewable energy - naturally replenished energy that comes from natural resources such as sunlight and wind - is in the best interests of humanity and the planet. The environmental cost of renewable development is but a fraction of the impacts to land, water, and air caused by the extraction, refining, and combustion of fossil fuels and by the extraction and disposal of nuclear fuel and the consequence of nuclear accident. Nonetheless, renewables have their impacts, and we want investors to know that the renewable energy industry is heavily regulated in recognition of those impacts, and that we are in full compliance.
Environmental laws all follow the same fundamental model. The first step is to study impacts to plants and animals, cultural resources like ruins and artifacts, water and air, and the sounds of turbines and their look on the landscape. The second step is to decide whether any of these impacts are adverse, or whether the impacts outweigh the benefits. The permitting agency makes this decision in consultation with specialized government agencies and the public. When a project with impacts goes forward, those impacts are minimized to the extent possible and mitigated through actions such as the purchase of animal habitat to compensate for habitat impacted by construction. Wind and solar development have unique impacts – wind has the potential to harm birds and bats if turbines are sited in their normal flight paths, and photovoltaic solar has a large footprint that can impact the habitat of sensitive species.
Building projects on Federal lands, like those managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), triggers the application of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA sets forth a rigorous analysis of the environmental effects of Federal permitting actions and their alternatives, and the NEPA process produces an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) document that permits the project. Biological studies are the primary focus of impact analysis, with bird and bat monitoring occurring over the course of a year or more if species of concern are at issue, and particular attention is paid to migration seasons. Greenbriar intentionally chooses sites without known avian issues and has never been faced with more than a year of pre-construction bird monitoring. A NEPA analysis is shared with the affected public and public comment is an integral part of a final NEPA document. When listed endangered species may be present, the lead agency is required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to consult with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to determine whether the Federal action has the potential to impact a species. Sometimes a project encounters impacts that outweigh its benefits, and we abandon it in the planning stages. Acceptable impacts are minimized to the extent we can through project design and mitigated by measures dictated by USFWS and the action agency. Such mitigation measures may include avoidance of environmentally or culturally significant areas, strict presence of biologists to monitor for endangered species during ground-disturbing activities, and the purchase of land outside the project boundaries to replace lost habitat. Under the ESA, we also work directly with USFWS to develop comprehensive Habitat Conservation Plans that look at our projects and the cumulative impacts of projects in the area as a seamless ecological whole and minimize and mitigate impacts.
We also develop projects on land owned by state governments, and on privately owned lands. The ESA still applies directly if an endangered species is present, but in general, state laws that mimic NEPA and the ESA, as well as a host of other laws that protect the environment, govern permitting actions by state and local governments. California has some of the strictest environmental laws in the United States, with its California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and California Endangered Species Act (CESA) dictating more rigorous scrutiny than their Federal counterparts. Under CEQA, the action agency, usually a county government, crafts mitigation measures in consultation with the public and the California Department of Fish & Game and incorporates them into an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that is analogous to the above-mentioned EIS under NEPA. When a state-listed species is present, CESA requires that we obtain an Incidental Take Permit that dictate biological monitoring of all activities and the purchase of replacement habitat. California also requires mitigation of impacts to water through permits obtained from Fish & Game and from the Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Although other states differ from California in varying degrees, our approach to protecting the environment is informed by our California experience and we work with all state and county government agencies to build projects with minimal impact to the environment. Many counties have Wind Ordinances that require consultation with the state environmental protection agency before a project is permitted, and in those that do not, we consult because it is the right thing to do.
Investors can feel comfortable that Greenbriar Capital Corp. is committed to “green energy” in the broadest sense of the term. Please let us know if you have any questions or comments.