According to an addendum to the California Energy Commission's (CEC) Draft Environmental Impact Statement for BrightSource Energy's proposed solar site in Ivanpah, CEC staff declared that the altered site proposal to avoid special status plants (see previous post) fully compensates for damage to biological resources. The staff previously concluded that the Ivanpah proposal did not fully account for the harm it would cause to an array of desert wildlife, to include the rare Rusby's Desert Mallow, Mojave milkweed, desert tortoises, and potentially bighorn sheep. The addendum does concede, however, that "on-site" mitigation for special status plants -- which would involve leaving some plants located on the site intact and keeping solar structures away from them--would likely fail and result in the loss of many of the protected plants.
The significance of the updated CEC assessment is that BrightSource's altered proposal is a step closer to being approved since the CEC staff is satisfied that its originally proposed conditions (acquiring desert tortoise mitigation land, raven management, etc) combined with the new site proposal that attempts to accomodate special status plants would reduce the harm done to the Mojave Desert to "insignificant" levels. It seems unlikely that the CEC "presiding member"--who will make the final determination on the future of Ivanpah and the conditions to which BrightSource Energy must adhere--would deny certification to Ivanpah. However, if the presiding member retains the proposed conditions, to include the requirement that BrightSource purchase and conserve over 8000 acres of desert to off-set harm to desert tortoises (see previous post), then the decision would at least send a message to prospective energy companies to be more judicious and wise in their siting decisions.