FTHL: SOL. Tom Budlong photo

Friends who have intervened in the permitting process for the proposed Solar Two site at Ocotillo, California, which would replace old-growth desert habitat for flat-tailed horned lizards with industrial power generation run by Tessera Solar, received email yesterday from Terry O’Brien, the deputy director of the Siting, Transmission and Environmental Protection Division the California Energy Commission. That email read, in part,

The Energy Commission staff believes that the direct project impacts to biological resource, and soil and water resources, and visual resources, and the cumulative impacts associated with biological resources, land use, soil and water resources, and visual resources for the Imperial Valley Solar (IVS) Project will be significant. There is no feasible mitigation that would reduce the impacts to a level that is less than significant given the scale of the project, and other projects that were cumulatively considered. In addition, staff has concluded that the project will not be able to comply with Imperial County several laws, ordinances, regulations and standards, also referred to as “LORS.” Finally, staff recognizes that due to a lack of information regarding the long-term performance of this new technology, it is uncertain whether the applicant’s claims regarding reliability will be met.

Notwithstanding the unmitigable impacts, consideration needs to be given to the fact that the project is a solar power plant that will help California meet its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 33 percent in 2020 and AB 32 greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. As such, it will provide critical environmental benefits by helping the state reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and these positive attributes must be weighed against the project’s adverse impacts. It is because of these benefits and the concerns regarding the adverse impacts that global warming will have upon the state and our environment, including desert ecosystems, that staff believes it would be appropriate for the Commission to approve the project based on a finding of overriding considerations, consistent with CEQA Guideline Section 15093, if the Commission adopts staff’s proposed mitigation measures/conditions of certification.

In the words of my friend Tom Budlong, an intervenor in the case, “It essentially says: There are many unmitigable impacts, it breaks a few laws, and we don’t know if the machinery will last. But we will approve the project anyway.”

The full letter (252KB PDF) is here.

It’s worth noting that this staff reccommendation came out as evidentiary hearings on the project were literally in process. CEC staff has made up its mind and the facts don’t matter. They want to destroy an irreplaceable piece of habitat for environmental reasons, and they’re willing to abuse and erode CEQA — California’s landmark environmental law — to do so.

3 thoughts on “CEC 2 FTHL: FOAD

  1. Bill Mcdonald

    That’s exactly right folks. It wouldn’t matter if the desert land in question was the last remaining stronghold of the bighorn sheep and paving it over with mirrors would lead to the extirpation of the species, they are going through with the projects.

    No matter what the costs, come hell or high water, the powers that be, the big money interests in cahoots with some in leadership positions in the environmental movement, due to
    a need to”help California meet its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 33 percent in 2020 and AB 32 greenhouse gas emission reduction goals” will not stop these projects.

    You get it, don’t you? These pencil pushers are going to pave over every bit of remaining free space in the Mojave whether we like it or not. When you count all the many square miles
    of planned projects plus the inevitable fragmentation due to infrastructure needs plus industrialization, that will be the effect. You can take that to the bank.

    This runaway freight train is heading soon to a desert vista you love. And I don’t see anything remotely capable of stopping it, short of a major economic collapse in the financial markets or a lawsuit being filed in federal court somewhere. If the situation sounds dire, it’s because it is.

    If we had, say the Sierra Club, helping us from the beginning, on board pushing distributed local power generation or other alternatives, and using their media access to sell the people on the idea of saving the deserts, maybe we might have a chance of stopping this.
    But as we know, some of their leadership, believe that a little sacrifice has to be made by the deserts so that we can stop the global warming.

    I still don’t get why we have to start paving now just to meet some arbitrary legislative or statuatory deadline to get the Obama bucks, when we could just put a hold on everything-even if just for a year or two to research those alternatives.

    The earth isn’t going to end in two years, but if these projects go through, the Mojave with
    all it’s beauty and majesty will.If you think I’m overstating the situation, surf over to the State of California Energy Commission site and take a look at all the project petitions. You’ll be totally amazed at the sheer size, scope, and number of projects in the pipeline!

    It is truly a damned shame that OUR Mojave and other wild places are now at the mercy of the hacks in Sacramento and Washington.

    Bill Mcdonald

  2. Shaun

    Chris, thank you for this update, as saddening and frustrating as this CEC decision is.  Policymakers are making an unfortunate mistake, acting as if these sites selected by private companies are the last possible place to site a solar plant.  There ARE better places for solar (to include our rooftops).

  3. Larry Hogue

    With all of the impacts this project will have, and all the laws it breaks, why doesn’t the CEC make this company spend a bit more money and move the project to the Mesquite Lake site? (Is that alternative still being considered?)