Monday, December 7, 2009

Solar Site Debate Continues

The BrightSource Energy Company and various environmental groups continue to contest the impact that the proposed Ivanpah solar site will have on Mojave Desert wilderness. A cursory review of BrightSource's testimony to the California Energy Commission (CEC) argues that the designated location for the solar plant is not listed as premium Desert Tortoise habitat. This claim likely rests on dated information from much broader territory surveys and ignores the biological surveys conducted on the designated site over the past year, which have in fact identified significant biological resources, including at least 25 desert tortoises.

In the testimony, Brightsource proposes several major revisions to the proposed compliance measures, which the CEC proposed in order to better protect the natural resources that belong to the public during construction and operation of the site. BrightSource proposes eliminating the BLM as a certifying official in some of the biological compliance standards set forth by the CEC. Instead of the BLM, which has local staff that are more attuned to the resources and conditions at the site, the company proposes that the Sacramento-based Compliance Project Manager (CPM) certify most compliance efforts. The revisions proposed by the company weaken the BLM's role and leave it with nothing more than "review and comment" duties. Questions of biological resources on BLM land should be addressed by BLM, and thus compliance measures should also be determined and certified by BLM.

A review of the company's proposed revisions also appear to weaken the CEC's proposed Desert Tortoise habitat mitigation plan, as well as proposals to preserve very rare plant species located on the site, to include the Mojave Milkweed.

You can find the company's documents posted on this site ("Applicant's Testimony"), as well as responses posted by environmental groups at this site.

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