Today the California Energy Commission (CEC) posted another update on its consideration of BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS). The CEC Staff assessed that even though the proposed solar site presents significant negative impacts to visual resources, and significant cumulative impacts to land use, and traffic, the staff deemed that the need to develop renewable energy to combat global warming was an "overriding consideration". Note that the CEC Staff no longer considers the site to pose any significant impact to biological resources. Per my previous post, the CEC deemed proposed mitigation conditions and BrightSource Energy's altered footprint to sufficiently off-set the likely loss of special status plants and animals.
To the CEC's credit, the document did warn other energy companies not to take Ivanpah's "overriding consideration" assessment as a condition that would apply to other solar projects. The CEC cited other proposed industrial and commercial development in the Ivanpah valley as one reason why an override was approved for ISEGS. As I have mentioned in previous posts, this reasoning appears to ignore or accept the gradual degradation of Mojave Desert wilderness. If one of the primary reasons that Ivanpah is approved is that the site is only one of many dominoes falling in the area, it calls into question the efficacy and sincerity of 1.) assessing cumulative impacts during the certification process and 2.) the ability of either State or Federal agencies to actually encourage private developers to consider less damaging alternative sites. Even though BrightSource is likely to have a high tab for mitigation conditions (they are required to purchase thousands of acres of conservation land, for example), the certification process could have addressed alternative sites much sooner, which could have resulted in a better location or configuration-- saving BrightSource money, and sparing dwindling Mojave Desert wildlife and open space.