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Senator Feinstein Advocates for Solar on Private Land; Addresses Bureaucratic Process

In a letter to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, Senator Dianne Feinstein expressed dismay with the slow Federal Government permitting process for solar projects proposed for private land.  In the letter, the Senator points out that renewable energy projects in California proposed for BLM (public) land benefit from a speedy permitting process, while projects proposed for private land languish because specific government agencies do not share the same commitment to a speedy process as much as BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Energy Commission (CEC).

This bureaucratic slow down could dissuade more energy companies from developing on private land, which is likely to be of less significant biological value and have less impact on the Mojave Desert. Particularly because energy companies are hurrying to complete certification before the end of the year so they can qualify for Department of Energy sponsored loans.

So what administrative road blocks are slowing down the per…

Mojave National Preserve

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A picture taken from the Granite Hills in the Mojave National Preserve this past weekend.  I plan to take a closer look at the Ridgecrest EIS and also update you on other solar projects in later posts this week.  Stay tuned.

CEC Staff Recommends Against Ridgecrest Solar Power Project

In the California Energy Commission's (CEC) Staff Assessment and Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Ridgecrest Solar Power Project, the CEC recommended against the project, citing the potential damage to biological resources could not be mitigated.   Solar Millenium proposed building a 250MW dry-cooled solar energy plant on a 3,995 acre right-of-way just west of Ridgecrest -- approximately 2,000 acres would be disturbed for the site construction and operation.  Overall, the CEC Staff's recommendation is a very positive sign that the certification process can account for the need to preserve wilderness and biological treasures in the Mojave Desert.  Despite the Staff's assessment, the final decision will not be made until after the CEC holds evidentiary hearings and the presiding member makes a final decision.  The staff assessment is not a final verdict.

As mentioned in an earlier post examining preliminary biological surveys of the site, the Ridgecrest project w…

catching up...

I've been on the road so consequently I have not been able to post recently.  I plan to share the fruits of my travels and post some photos and experiences from a recent visit to the Mojave National Preserve.  In the meantime, I wanted to point out that the Ridgecrest solar power project Staff Assessment and Draft Environmental Impact Statement is available on the CEC website.  As noted in previous posts, the Ridgecrest project could have impacts on Mojave Desert biological resources comparable to the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.  I'll post a summary of the assessment and EIS this week.

California Governor Streamlines Solar Permitting

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation (SB 34) this week that intends to speed up the certification process for solar energy proposals under consideration by the California Energy Commission (CEC).  The law allows the State to collect developer fees (at least $75,000 for each application) from companies applying for solar energy permits that would fund a dedicated staff to conduct the environmental impact review.

The law also creates the Renewable Energy Development Fee Trust, which would create a centralized process for collecting mitigation funds assessed by the CEC for specific proposals.  The State and Federal agencies would then use these funds for mitigation efforts to off-set the environmental impacts.  It is not yet clear how this mechanism fits in with the efforts of the "Renewable Energy Action Team," (subject of a previous post) which also sought to streamline the mitigation cost collection and distribution.  

According to the text of SB 34, …

Can the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 be Passed this Year?

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Following the announcement of Senator Feinstein's proposed California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010) in December, civic organizations across California have been seeking support from local city councils and members of Congress in order to pave the way for its introduction into Senate and then House debate.  Senator Feinstein indicated that she would like to see the bill (S.2921) at the Senate for a vote before the end of this year.  So how does it look for CDPA 2010?  Even though several town councils, off-road organizations, and conservation groups have joined to support the intent of the legislation--which would set aside 1.6 million acres for conservation and provide permanent off-road vehicle recreation areas--the legislation's passage may be threatened by political realities in Washington that ignore the local grassroots and civic support building behind the legislation in California.

Probably the biggest trend in American politics that could affect CDPA 2010 w…

Victorville City Council Delays Consideration of CDPA 2010

The Victorville City Council once again considered whether or not to support or oppose Senator Feinstein's proposed California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010).  Once again--for the third time--the Council decided to delay taking a vote on the matter, citing the need for more information.  Several citizens present at the meeting voiced support for the legislation, and one citizen from Victorville opposed the legislation. 

Although ultimately whether or not a city council opposes or supports the bill will not directly impact the legislation, the measure of local support for the legislation will be used to indirectly bolster or erode the legislation's chances when it comes to a vote for committee debate in Washington.  For that reason, if you support the legislation you should contact your local officials and let them know. For the City of Victorville, you can obtain the councilmember's email addresses on their website.