Saturday, May 28, 2011

Energy Companies Take Aim at Sacred Sites in California Desert

Chevron and Solar Millennium LLC have begun bulldozing what will ultimately be an 11 square-mile field of mirrors and steel, replacing old growth desert and ironwood washes in the Sonoran desert.  The construction is also cutting into an area considered sacred by Native Americans, with giant geoglyphs depicting deities carved into desert gravel.  The largest geoglyph near the project is of the god Kokopelli, which plays a central role in some Native American tribes' cosmological view.

The Blythe Solar power project is one of several that was "fast-tracked" by the Department of Interior for approval last year, leading to what many consider to be a hasty environmental and historical review process.  A judge halted one of those projects--the Imperial Valley solar power project--because the Department of Interior did not adequately consult with the Quechan tribe before approving the project.  Another legal challenge challenged six of the projects, including Blythe, and is pending judicial review.

Some environmental groups decided to tacitly support the destructive Blythe Solar power project, probably in order to appear as cooperative with the Obama administration's plans to give hundreds of square miles of public lands and billions of taxpayer dollars in financing to solar energy firms.  The Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society all submitted letters to the Department of the Interior withdrawing opposition to the project, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.  It's not clear if the environmental groups consulted with Native Americans before giving a nod to Interior's plans to approve the Blythe Solar power project.

Copies of the letters withdrawing opposition to the Blythe solar project--attached below--do not express concern for the condition of sacred sites.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Angry Birds

Google Inc has invested 55 million dollars in a massive wind energy project in the western Mojave Desert.  The wind energy project--the Alta Wind Energy Center--will blanket the Tehachapi mountains and generate up to 1,500 megawatts of energy when it is complete.

According to the American Bird Conservancy, wind turbines can kill up to 14 birds, per megawatt, per year, and a median rate of 2.2 birds per MW, per year, according to industry estimates.  Google's investment might just kill anywhere from 3,300 to 21,000 birds, per year.  That is just a single wind energy project.  The truth about massive wind and solar energy projects is slowly coming to light as people realize that we have to sacrifice vast swaths of open space and drive some species closer to extinction.

Google should know better.  Their Mountain View, California campus is covered in rooftop solar panels.  Generating energy at the point of use.  If only Google could put its ingenuity toward a more vigorous distributed generation campaign and encourage solar in our cities, instead of bird and tortoise killing projects in our wildlands. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Have We Been Fooled by Calico Solar?

This is the story of a solar power project that was approved by State and Federal Governments even though the energy company had no way of building it in the first place.  The representatives of the taxpayer are now being asked to turn a blind eye, once again.

Fool me once, shame on you.... 
Last fall the California Energy Commission (CEC) and Department of Interior approved Tessera Solar LLC's proposal to bulldoze 7 square-miles of public land for a solar power facility in the central Mojave Desert.  Both Washington and Sacramento acknowledged the significant environmental damage the project would cause to the pristine desert habitat, but rushed to approve it so Tessera Solar could qualify for over a billion dollars in taxpayer-backed stimulus funding.  The government approved the project on the basis that Tessera Solar would install thousands of SunCatcher dishes--an unproven and complicated piece of machinery.  

It turns out Tessera Solar may have misrepresented its ability to build the project in the first place, according to documents presented to the CEC.  Not long after receiving the green light from the government, Tessera Solar publicly announced that it would not be able to build the project.  That did not stop them from earning money at the taxpayer's expense.  Tessera Solar LLC sold its permission to build on public land to another company, named Calico Solar LLC.
A photo of the notorious SunCatcher dishes taken from the CEC Staff Assessment.  Tessera Solar told government regulators that it could build thousands of these to fill up 7 square miles of public land.  And then it admitted that this was not feasible.
The circumstances of Tessera Solar's apparently misleading dealings have come to light over the past few months.  During a hearing before the California Public Utilities Commission, a representative for Calico Solar LLC acknowledged that Tessera Solar sought approval for its project fully knowing that it did not have the capacity to manufacture enough SunCatcher dishes.  This is a crucial acknowledgement because the project was approved based on the company's pledge to use the SunCatcher technology.  The company that purchased Tessera Solar's permission to build on public land, Calico Solar LLC, now plans to build the project using mostly photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, with a smaller mixture of SunCatchers.

The Calico Solar power project would stretch for miles up to the Cady Mountains in the distance, displacing or killing dozens of tortoises and a pocket of rare desert wildflowers that only grows in a few other places.
Just to be clear, Calico Solar LLC bought the permission to build on public land.  No assets.  No capital.  Just a government decision that it hopes will be transferable and allow it to build on land that belongs to the taxpayer.

Fool me twice, shame on me...
Calico Solar is now demanding that the CEC expedite its approval of the revised project.  But there are two major problems.  1.) Calico Solar LLC's plans to use PV technology poses new environmental and hydrological problems, and 2.) the company claims it will still be able to install SunCatchers, even though nobody can prove that SunCatchers work or can be built on a mass scale.

Neither the CEC nor the BLM--the two governing bodies that control the future of the solar project--should have an easy time saying yes. 

The CEC's approval of the original project last year expressed confidence in the SunCatcher technology, and the CEC's regulations require that it only certify projects that are feasible and available.  According to the CEC Staff assessment:
"Applicant and Staff evaluated alternative generating technologies to the proposed project. Staff independently concluded that from an energy efficiency prospective, given the project objectives, location, air pollution control requirements, and the commercial availability of various alternative technologies, that the selected solar thermal technology [SunCatchers] is a reasonable selection."
The BLM even assessed that photovoltaic (PV) solar panels would do more harm to the desert than the proposed SunCatcher technology in its assessment of the project:

"The utility-scale solar PV technology was eliminated from detailed analysis because it would require the entire site to be graded. This would result in a greater effect on biological and cultural resources than the Calico Solar Project, which would not require grading the entire site. It would therefore have greater environmental effects than the Proposed Action."
What makes matters worse is that the new company, Calico Solar LLC, seems like it is set up to fail. 

Calico Solar LLC is owned by K Road Sun.  K Road Sun is owned by K Road Power.  K Road Power is owned indirectly by somebody who apparently does not want to have their name on a disaster. All of these layers help protect the owners in case the project fails, which may be the expected outcome.

How many employees work for Calico Solar LLC?


According to testimony given to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on May 17, Calico Solar LLC's representative at the hearing self-identified as a "consultant" and rejected the "employee" title.  The consultant is also the elected "Vice President," but he is not paid by Calico Solar LLC.  He is paid by K Road Power Management, LLC.   So who owns K Road Power Management?  A Frenchman named William Kriegel indirectly owns K Road Power, according to the testimony.

If you still think it sounds like a good idea for the government to turn a blind eye to Calico Solar LLC's revised project, let me go a bit further. 

Calico Solar's decision to use a high concentration of PV panels would require thousands more poles than would have been drilled into the desert soil if they only used SunCatchers (which apparently cannot be manufactured efficiently, anyways). Not only does this mean lots of dead tortoises and extinct wildflowers, it also means the soil underneath the panels cannot hold water during major storms. Storms in the desert may be rare, but they do happen.

These poles and panels are a problem for Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad, which runs through the project area. You may think a bunch of desert rats are the only ones that care about the fate of beautiful desert landscapes and gentle desert tortoises roaming the area. But BNSF also depends on intact soils and desert habitat to keep gushing rain water from wiping out its tracks, one of the few railways feeding the metropolis of Los Angeles. Calico Solar's PV panels would bring more water run-off, more disrupted soil, and higher chances of a severed railroad. A disrupted railroad--even for just a couple of days--could bring very bad consequences for Southern California's economy.

So it's not just fun and games when a company comes along, promises to build something that it cannot afford, and sells its permission to steal public land to another company that has zero employees and expresses little intent to respect other stakeholders.

The case of Tessera Solar and Calico Solar LLC should be a lesson to the CEC and Department of Interior.  Take our public land seriously.  Profiteers set on destroying our natural treasures at any cost should not have gotten as far as they did last year.  And they should not be allowed to profit from misrepresentation, selling permission to build on public land to other speculators. 

In a bit of irony, just down the road from the the site of the proposed Calico Solar power project is a little town called Daggett.  During the late 1800s and early 1900s, miners and homesteaders chased dreams of riches hoping to turn desert soil into vast farms or striking the mother lode.  The most honest ones invested their own sweat and tears, sometimes breaking even.  But some scheming businessmen saw an opportunity to get money for nothing.  They would bring investors from Los Angeles to this part of the central Mojave Desert, show them a patch of land and spin up their imaginations.  The investors would put down money with promises of a handsome return--perhaps expecting to come back in a couple of years to see a blossoming orchard or a productive silver mine.   The scam artists would disappear, and the investors would be left with nothing but their outrage.

We should be a country of wisdom an ingenuity, not scams and mirages.  Solar technology means we can slap a solar panel on our rooftop and generate power just meters from the light bulb that is plugged into our wall.  Why should we give up vast swaths of public land and billions of taxpayer dollars to private interests when the answer is right in front of us?

This desert tortoise isn't sure that Calico Solar LLC should be allowed to bulldoze 7 square-miles of pristine desert land on the taxpayer's dime.  It's time for real solutions to global warming, not more of the same greedy energy companies that we've accepted for the past century.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Measuring the Renewable Energy Land Grab

One thousand square miles.  That's how much public land energy companies want to bulldoze over the next few years in California for massive solar and wind facilities, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) list of pending and approved wind testing and solar applications.   That is more than two times the size of Los Angeles, over four times the size of San Francisco, and more than 14 times the size of Washington D.C.  But what would 1,000 square miles of solar and wind projects get us? Will it stop climate change?  Not nearly.  The proposed projects would generate 13.7 gigawatts of energy.   That is less than a quarter of California's total energy generation capacity.  Building fields of glass and metal the size of the cities they are meant to power does not make sense. 

There is a lot of political momentum pushing these massive projects at the expense of investing in distributed generation (such as rooftop solar) which would spare our wildlands for future generations.  There is certainly a need to quickly ramp up our renewable energy generation in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ward off human-induced climate change.  But a misguided few use this necessity to push one of the most greedy and destructive movements America's wildlands will ever see, arguably on par with the projected damage these lands are expected to experience as a result of climate change. 

Dead Birds, Smashed Tortoises
The Department of Interior and the Obama administration have not conducted an honest assessment of the cumulative impacts of their renewable energy campaign, and concerned citizens are ringing the alarm already.  It's not just the financial costs (a single 5.6 square mile solar facility in the Mojave Desert will receive nearly 1.6 billion dollars in taxpayer backed financing), but these large projects will be strewn about once-pristine land, and decimate already imperiled plant and wildlife populations.

The BLM reports that the proposed wind projects for California would generate 2,233 megawatts (MW).  According tot he American Bird Conservancy, wind turbines can kill up to 14 birds, per MW, per year.  So if all of the proposed wind projects are built in California, nearly 31,262 birds could die each year.  Golden eagles, turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, Le Conte's Thrasher, California Condors...anything that flies.  The projects also require miles of new access roads, which fragment the surrounding habitat and etch barren paths that take generations for desert ecosystems to repair.

This photo from Basin and Range Watch shows wide access roads carved to reach a large wind energy project in the western Mojave Desert.
Large solar projects will bring bulldozers to habitat where well-adapted and beautiful organisms have learned to thrive.  Deesert tortoise, Mojave fringe-toed lizard, Mohave ground squirrel, and flat-tailed horned lizard have found themselves in the headlines as victims of solar facilities, but all life in the desert is a miracle.  The low-lying shrubs you see all throughout the desert--many are no taller than a human--can be centuries old.  Wildflower seeds lay dormant for years waiting for the perfect amount of rain before putting on dazzling displays.   Mowing down beautiful yucca plants or a smashed tortoise is not the image of "green energy" that solar companies want you to see.

The Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System in the northeastern Mojave Desert, for example, is projected to displace or kill over 160 adult tortoises, and kill hundreds of juvenile tortoises, which are harder to spot and avoid during construction.  This is a testament to the high quality habitat on the site, and the poor choice made by BrightSource Energy to build on pristine desert.  A separate project in the central Mojave Desert proposed by K Road Power would imperil dozens of tortoises and one of the last remaining pockets of the white-margined beardtongue, a rare desert flowering plant.

The rare white-margined beardtongue, which can be found on public land targeted by K Road Power as the site of the proposed Calico Solar power project.

The damage from solar energy projects would be more than just the hundreds of tortoises and other life that find themselves in the paths bulldozers.  The fields of glass and metal that pave swaths of desert will industrialize and fragment entire landscapes.  The projects will shrink available habitat, block wildlife corridors, use underground water aquifers, and spread invasive plant species.

And do not forget that all of these projects in the middle of our open spaces will require new transmission lines.  Each one requires miles of new access roads and construction activity.  The transmission towers create new hazards to birds, and scar scenic vistas.

Multiple transmission lines scar the Antelope Valley in the western Mojave Desert.  A new transmission line is being added to carry wind energy from fields of bird-killing wind turbines along the Tehachapi mountains and once undisturbed desert.

Getting Back on the Right Path
Smarter distributed generation, such as rooftop solar, is slowly taking root, but multi-billion dollar banks and energy companies are lobbying Congress and Sacramento to clear the wrong path for large scale projects.  They complain that environmental review mechanisms--the same ones we expect to prevent oil spills,  carbon emissions, or extinction of plant and wildlife--are too cumbersome.  Solar and wind energy companies have more in common with coal and oil than you would think--they expect tax breaks, lax regulation, and unfettered access to public land.

Feed-in-tariffs, PACE financing, and tax incentives for rooftop solar would allow a true change in how we power our homes and businesses.   We could also focus on energy conservation.  Turning off lights and computers, unplugging chargers, etc.  Chris Clarke over at Coyote Crossing did the math on newer LED bulbs.  If we replaced the 425 million incandescent bulbs with more efficient LED bulbs, we could cut energy consumption by nearly 21 gigawatts.  If we can get America to reinvent itself and give the tax breaks back to the taxpayer, we might end up with more solar panels on rooftops than on public land, lower utility bills and fewer transmission lines.

A tranquil portion of the Ivanpah Valley in the northeastern Mojave Desert--home to desert tortoises, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and rare plants--before BrightSource Energy unleashed bulldozers on the site last fall.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Solar Executives Ask for More Taxpayer Land and Money As Protesters Gather

Protesters gathered this week outside the offices of Oakland-based BrightSource Energy, which is building the 5.6 square mile Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System on public land and using nearly 1.6 billion dollars in taxpayer-backed financing.  The project is now expected to kill hundreds of adult and juvenile tortoises, according to a revised biological assessment by the Department of Interior, which has temporarily halted the project until the US Fish and Wildlife Service makes a determination on how the project should proceed.  

The protesters outside of BrightSource's corporate offices drew attention to rooftop solar, a much wiser alternative to destructive utility-scale projects that enables homeowners and businesses to invest in their own property and cut utility bills.  Solar energy industry executives, however, are more interested in receiving handouts from Washington for their destructive projects in the desert, and are planning to request even more public land and money at a US House of Representatives hearing in June.

This photograph by Erin Whitfield shows preliminary grading taking place for initial phases of the Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System.  The destruction shown here is only about a third of the total proposed project.
The Solar energy industry is likely to ask for a faster review process by the Department of Interior and continued stimulus funding, apparently unsatisfied with the "fast-track" process that resulted in several large projects being approved last year, despite serious environmental and cultural concerns.  One 9 square miles project in the Sonoran Desert was halted by a judge because the Department of Interior failed to conduct a proper review and consultation with Native American tribes, while the approval of other projects face pending legal hurdles.

Western Watersheds Projects filed a legal challenge against Department of Interior's approval of BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah facility citing inadequate review of the environmental impacts, including on the desert tortoise.  Western Watershed's concerns were validated over recent months as Washington scrambles to deal with the reality of impacts on tortoises that are higher than they estimated during the environmental review last year.

The thriving tortoise population in the Ivanpah Valley is a testament to the pristine state of desert habitat there, given that the tortoise is in decline throughout its range, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Some estimates indicate that the tortoise population has dropped nearly 90 percent since the 1980s due to disease and habitat loss. The density of tortoises in the Ivanpah Valley, which is situated in the northeastern Mojave Desert, seems uncharacteristically high right now.  But that will change quickly with the construction of BrightSource Energy's facility.  Two other projects proposed by First Solar Inc--the Silver State and Stateline projects--would destroy an additional 15 square miles of pristine public land in the Ivanpah Valley.

A desert tortoise out foraging.
Many citizens are questioning the wisdom of massive solar projects that will only raise electric rates and destroy hundreds of square miles of pristine desert if the dozens of proposed projects are ultimately approved.  Most of the projects probably could not get off the ground without heavy subsidies from taxpayers, according to energy industry watchers.  

Meanwhile western states and Washington are slow to see a much greater opportunity that could create jobs while cutting down greenhouse gas emissions.  Instead of hearing the complaints of solar energy industry executives, the House Natural Resources Committee might want to look into policies that can expedite distributed generation.  For example, national legislation on property assessed clean energy (PACE), would pave the way for homeowners to invest in their own rooftop solar installation using locally issued financing paid back over time.   Instead of giving loans to large solar companies, funding should instead be directed toward community solar projects that can benefit local property values, create jobs, and save public land from needless destruction.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Saddleback Butte State Park

Goldfield wildflowers, sand verbena, creosote bushes, and Joshua trees adorn Saddleback Butte State Park in the Mojave Desert.  The park is one of several desert parks that face closure according to Governor Brown's list of 70 state parks proposed for the chopping block

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Loggerhead Shrike

A loggerhead shrike perched on the branch of a creosote bush in the western Mojave Desert, where Solar Millennium proposes building the Ridgecrest Solar power project.  
This loggerhead shrike was hunting, swooping down after prey of lizards and insects.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Desert Calico

A Desert Calico flower blooming on the site of Solar Millennium's proposed Ridgecrest Solar power project. The site is mostly creosote shrub habitat, with a desert wash crossing much of the area.  Biodiversity on the site is high, with desert tortoise, Mohave ground squirrel, loggerhead shrike, and various flowering plants.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Are Environmental Groups Acquiescing to First Solar's Desert Sunlight Project?

The Department of Interior last month released the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for First Solar Inc's Desert Sunlight solar power project.  After a final public review of the EIS, the Department of Interior will decide whether or not to grant approval to the project.  According to the EIS, it appears that Washington will give the green light and even use taxpayers' money to finance First Solar's plans to destroy 4,176 acres (nearly 6.5 square miles) of desert habitat, including some desert tortoise critical habitat.  Although national environmental groups have been following these massive solar projects closely, they have been relatively silent about their impacts.  A First Solar representative claimed earlier this year that the company had the support of environmental organizations.  What role does such behind-the-scenes support play, and how does this impact Department of Interior's decision?

Desert Sunlight a Replay of Ivanpah?
Despite having the option to reject the project or prefer a reduced acreage alternative, the Department of Interior's "preferred alternative" is an ecologically destructive layout that will be built within 2 miles of Joshua Tree National Park.  According to the EIS, anywhere from 10-14 endangered desert tortoises are expected to be displaced or killed by the project.  Desert biologists are worried that this is a low estimate, and even the Bureau of Land Management admits that there are 22 active tortoise burrows on the site, calling into question their estimate of 14 live tortoises.

The Department of Interior underestimated the tortoise population on the Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System site, which revised estimates now suggest will displace or kill as many as 160 adult tortoises, and kill at least 700 young tortoises, which are harder to spot and relocate during construction.  Western Watersheds Project is demanding an injunction against the Ivanpah Solar project, in part because of the faulty tortoise assessments and mitigation plans.  No other national environmental organizations have taken a stand against BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah project, which may be one of three disastrous energy projects in the pristine desert valley.

Green Silence in Support of a Destructive Project
Why are First Solar's plans to bulldoze pristine desert habitat near Joshua Tree National Park not running into opposition from national environmental groups?  According to a conversation I had with a First Solar Inc representative at a public hearing in February, multiple environmental organizations have privately expressed support for First Solar's Desert Sunlight project, including The Wilderness Society and the Center for Biological Diversity.  Such support would contradict these same organizations' public support for smarter siting of solar projects to avoid ecological impacts, and undermines their credibility as advocates for a smarter solar policy, including distributed generation (rooftop solar).

Why does it matter if a national environmental organization privately supports an ill-conceived solar project? Because it almost certainly factors into Department of Interior's decision-making as it considers where it can permit these projects.  According to documents provided by the Department of Interior via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, several environmental organizations informed the Bureau of Land Management's office in California that they no longer objected to Solar Millennium's Blythe Solar power project in the Sonoran Desert.  The Blythe solar project will destroy over 11 square miles of public land, receive nearly $2 billion in taxpayer financing, and threaten Native American cultural sites.  

The Blythe solar power project is one of several named in a lawsuit by a Native American group claiming that the Federal government rushed its environmental and historical review of solar projects last year.  The Department of Interior placed it on its "fast-track" list so that they could approve the project in time for Solar Millennium to meet a deadline for public money.  Considering the objections raised by stakeholders during review of a project is integral to the National Environmental Policy Act process that Interior must follow.  Acquiescence or support from major environmental organizations for a project is likely given considerable weight when Interior is making a final decision on whether or not to approve a project, prefer a different layout, or reject it altogether. 

One of the desert ironwood wash ecosystems that can be found on the 11 square mile Blythe Solar power project site. Photo by Basin and Range Watch.

The Sierra Club, Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), the Wilderness Society, and Defenders of Wildlife letters noted each of the organizations' ambiguous "agreement" with Palo Verde Solar LLC (a subsidiary of Solar Millennium LLC) to withdrawal objections in return for conservation measures and compensatory habitat.  The status of these measures is unclear, but construction has already begun on the Blythe project site.  Desert experts question the availability of sufficient "compensatory" habitat agreements between environmental organizations and energy companies. that can be purchased and set aside for so many large solar projects, even though they are a feature of these misguided


The Center for Biological Diversity came to a similar agreement with BrightSource Energy regarding the Ivanpah project, which committed to unspecified conservation measures to protect desert tortoise habitat elsewhere in America's southwest.  It's not clear if Center for Biological Diversity will revise it's agreement now that the project's impacts on tortoises have increased greatly, but the Center ironically described the BrightSource Energy's plans in Ivanpah as one of several "poorly sited" solar projects in a press release just a year before its announced partnership with the energy company.
“Global warming is going to be putting incredible stresses on wildlife and ecosystems, especially in the deserts,” said Anderson.  “For species such as the desert tortoise to survive the coming decades, we need to preserve large blocks of intact habitat.  Destroying places like Ivanpah Valley in the name of green energy makes no sense, particularly when better alternatives are so clearly available.”

First Solar's Desert Sunlight project may become yet another example of national environmental organizations falling short of their objectives and the Department of Interior receiving false assurance that a project is righteous.  For their part, national environmental organizations should go public with their stand on these projects.  Do they support or oppose Desert Sunlight?  What about First Solar's plans to build two other projects in the beleaguered Ivanpah Valley?

It's clear that these national environmental organizations have become wayward vanguards, with only the outlines of a smart solar advocacy in place that is routinely muddled by agreements with energy companies.  Mitigating dozens of square miles of environmental destruction has its limits, as the green groups are well aware. Redrawing boundaries of massive solar projects and setting aside money for notional habitat improvement efforts will still leave us with a fragmented ecosystem and species pushed closer to extinction.  It's time for national environmental organizations to reclaim a true conservation ethic and a leadership position in renewable energy policy to put more solar panels on rooftops and keeping energy companies off of pristine wildlands.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Leave Me Alone

A desert iguana on the site of the proposed Calico Solar power project in the central Mojave Desert, peering back at the photographer from the shade of a creosote shrub.  The habitat on the site is pristine, and hosts desert tortoise, a rare desert flowering plant known as white-margined beardtongue, and the threatened Mojave fringe-toed lizard.

The Calico Solar power project would be built by K Road Power, pending re-evaluation of environmental impacts by the Bureau of Land Management and California Energy Commission due to modifications made to the proposal.