SOITEC FAILS TO DISCLOSE TRUTH ABOUT SOLAR PROJECT IMPACTS; HIRES FORMER SD PLANNER WHO WORKED ON SOITEC PROJECTS
Why doesn’t San Diego County end revolving door situation?
Photo: Soitec's Newberry Springs project, which promised minimal enviornmental impacts, graded all vegetation on the site.
By Miriam Raftery
Updated March 5, 2014 with clarifications from Soitec
March 1, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)—Developers frequently put “spin” on project descriptions to emphasize benefits rather than negative impacts. But certain statements by Soitec representatives regarding its proposed solar projects in Boulevard and a recent project in the desert fall into the “Pinnochio” category. In fact Soitec representatives misrepresented glare issues and the amount of land that is disturbed by their projects.
During a Soitec community meeting at the Manzanita Diner last month, ECM’s editor asked Soitec media and communications advisor Karen Hutchens specifically about a moratorium on solar projects approved by San Bernadino County Supervisors amid concerns about glare in Newberry Springs, where Soitec built a project very similar to its proposed Boulevard sites. Hutchens responded, “That had nothing to do with our project. The moratorium was passed before our project was even built.”
But Robert Berkman, head of a citizens group in Newberry Springs called CEQA-NOW, told ECM that statement was a bald-faced lie. “The moratorium came out because of the Soitec project—after it was built,” he said, adding that citizens invited Supervisors to visit the site. Supervisors said, “’`Good grief, what has happened here? ‘ “ Berkman stated. “The moratorium occurred because we were able to bring them out and say `This is an example of solar done wrong.’”
Soitec's Hutchens concedes that she erred in her statement on the timing of the moratorium, and agrees it was imposed after Soitec's project was built, but says Soitec's project was not the reason for the moratorium. ECM is seeking clarification from San Bernardino County's Land Services Department.
That's not the only disputed statement by Soitec.
By Miriam Raftery
February 28, 2014 (San Diego) – Opponents of the Tule Wind project in McCain Valley will have their day in court on Monday, March 3 in San Diego’s U.S. District Court. Then on April 25, a separate suit against the County over its wind energy ordinance and general plan amendment will also be heard.
The suits were filed by the Protect Our Communities Foundation and Donna Tisdale. Tisdale informed ECM that it's important to have many East County residents attend these trials.
Dear EarthTalk: What are “dirty fuels” and why are they so called? -- Bill Green, Seattle, WA
February 25, 2014 (San Diego's East County) - The term “dirty fuels” refers to fuels derived from tar sands, oil shale or liquid coal. Just like their more conventional fossil fuel counterparts such as petroleum and coal, they can be turned into gasoline, diesel and other energy sources that can generate extreme amounts of particulate pollution, carbon emissions and ecosystem destruction during their lifecycles from production to consumption.
BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS ENDS EIR ON SHU’LUUK WIND, BUT APPROVES EWIIAAPAAYP TRIBE'S LEASE FOR TULE WIND
By Miriam Raftery
February 24, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) -- It’s official: The Bureau of Indian Affairs has formally terminated the final Environmental Impact Statement for Shu’luuk Wind on the Campo Indian reservation in East County. The move comes after the Campo tribe’s General Council down the project and cancelled the tribe’s contract with Invenergy.
The BIA alo approved the Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indian’s plan to lease Cuyapaipe Reservation lands for a portion of Iberdrola’s massive Tule Wind project. The Bureau of Land Management and County of San Diego previously approved portions of the project on federal and county lands.
By Miriam Raftery
February 24, 2014 (Washington D.C.)--This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case that could determine whether or not the Environmental Protection Agency has the right to regulate greenhouse gas pollutants emitted by coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and chemical facilities.
Descanso, Pine Valley and Potrero targeted next
By Sharon Penny
Photos: Proposed Descanco siting
February 23, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--The massive solar farm planned for the community of Boulevard has been documented in the East County Magazine, but what has been largely under the radar are several smaller-scale solar farms planned throughout the backcountry, including Descanso, Pine Valley, Potrero and others.
On Thursday, February 20, the Descanso Planning Group (DPG) heard a brief presentation on a proposed solar farm on the south side of Viejas Boulevard on the Merigan property. Carlos Valdivia from Ecoplexus, the firm that is proposing to develop both Descanso and Pine Valley solar farms, gave an informational overview to the DPG and about 25 residents in attendance.
Public asked to plant Milkweed to save Monarch Butterflies;
Monsanto Roundup blamed for sharp demise in Monarch migration
By Grey Feathers
February 17, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--Monarch butterflies in abundance filled the air and gardens in San Diego County for as long as anyone can remember. These colorful butterflies migrate over 2,000 miles to winter in Southern California and Baja Mexico. The great mystery of how generations of Monarchs find their way south over such vast distances may never be known.
But this year, the numbers of Monarch butterflies reaching Mexico have reached an all time low—down an alarming 90 percent, the World Wildlife Fund has just announced, the Los Angeles Times reports. How can this be? One factor stands out: loss of Milkweed.
Disturbing data suggests Golden Eagles appear on verge of extinction in our region
By Miriam Raftery
February 15, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) –A state inventory of California’ rarest animals, birds and plants reveals that Golden Eagle populations have suffered a precipitous decline statewide, including here in San Diego County. Statewide, only 141 element occurrences (eagle nests and foraging habitat) are listed in all of California. Locally, the inventory lists just 14 “occurrences” countywide—with only one nest remaining in East County.
“So much for Bittner’s estimates,” wildlife biologist Jim Wiegand with Save the Eagles International told ECM. David Bittner is the so-called eagle expert hired by major energy companies to justify wind projects locally. Bittner was convicted in federal court and sentenced in August to charges of failing to file data reports with the federal government and illegal taking of an eagle.
Wiegand has previously estimated local nesting sites at 10--a fraction of Bittner's recent estimates.
Anza Borrego Foundation calls for halt to fast-tracking of all major energy projects;
Cleveland National Forest Foundation says EIR violates CEQA, fails to examine less harmful alternatives such as rooftop solar
By Miriam Raftery
February 15, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)—The Anza Borrego Foundation (ABF) and a law firm representing the Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF) have submitted comments warning of dire consequences from Soitec Solar’s proposed massive solar projects in the Boulevard community. Both urge the County to put the brakes on the proposed projects, which they warn would cause irreparable harm to wildlife and ecosystems not only in rural Boulevard, but in Anza Borrego State Park and Cleveland National Forest.
By Roy L Hales
February 14, 2014 (San Diego's East County) - A little more than two years since it was launched in Riverside County, the Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) Financing program is on the verge of an expansion that will take it into 70% of California’s population.
By Janis Mork
February 15, 2014 (El Cajon)- On Saturday February 1, the 2nd Annual Lilac 5K Trail Run took place at the Crestridge Ecological Reserve. This event was a fundraiser for environmental education and outreach programs of the Earth Discovery Institute.
February 15, 2014 (Jacumba)—Wayne Brammer sent in these photos of SDG&E’s new Eco Substation in Jacumba. The project is (so-named for hooking up to industrial-scale renewable energy projects. But to most backcountry residents, the project is an ecological disaster that destroyed the landscape and used three times more water (90 million gallons total) than SDG&E estimated.
“This thing is a monster and they’re wasting water all over the place, not just here but all the way to Boulevard,” writes Bramley, referencing other energy projects in the pipeline. “We really do need to separate from the city and have our own county,” he concluded, linking back to a reader’s editorial on this issue.
By Miriam Raftery
February 13, 2014 (Boulevard) -- The County has announced it will extend the deadline to March 3rd for public comments on Soitec Solar's draft programing environmental impact report for four industrial-scale solar projects proposed in rural Boulevard, following an overwhelming public response during the initial comment period.
The bulk of those responses were highly critical of the projects, some casting doubt on water estimates made by project consultant Dudek, which has severely underestimated water usage recently on several other high profile projects. Others voiced concerns over impacts on wildlife, view sheds, and loss of rural character.
Below is the notice sent by the County:
“Armed groups have more rights than wind farm victims.”-- Mark Duchamp of EPAW
By Miriam Raftery
February 12, 2014 (Europe)—The European Court of Justice has dismissed a legal challenge filed by a group representing wind farm victims and found the group lacks legal standing—also ordering the European Platform Against Windfarms (EPAW) to pay legal costs for Brussels, Belgium. The decision is certain to have a chilling effect and prevents appeal, since that would force people claiming harm from wind turbines to risk losing their homes and other assets.
By Miriam Raftery
February 8, 2014 (Santa Ysabel) – One day after the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel’s tribal council met and voted to shut down its financially troubled casino in Santa Ysabel, employees arrived at work to find the facility closed last week. Patrons found a “closed for business” message on the casino’s website.
Now, a tribal business enterprise, Biostar Solar, offers a potentially brighter future.
SDSU water expert concludes Soitec’s 4 projects will use more water than rainfall can replace, placing entire ecological system at risk; other experts confirm serious water concerns
By Roy L. Hales; Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report
(photo: Dead trees from well pumping that lowered water table elsewhere illustrates what experts and residents fear could occur in Boulevard.)
February 9, 2014 (Boulevard)—Hydrology experts are casting serious doubts about the credibility of water use claims made by Soitec Solar for four massive solar projects proposed in San Diego’s rural East County.
February 17 is deadline for public comments; citizens are urged to participate
By Sharon Penny
February 11, 2014 (Boulevard)--An overflow crowd attended the February 6 meeting of the Boulevard Planning Group to hear a detailed presentation by the County of San Diego and Soitec about four massive solar projects planned for the community.
But the show-stealer proved to be Jacumba resident Howard Cook, chair of the Jacumba Sponsor Group. Cook fired off a list of glaring omissions from the water use estimated by Soitek’s consultant, Dudek. These were not minor components; among the omitted items were a substation, concrete-making plants and rock-crushing operations--all water intensive activities, raising serious questions about the competence and integrity of an environmental consulting firm with a record of severely under-estimating water use at other recent projects.
Editor's Note: The following story previously ran at Reviving Gaia (now Eco Report) and Watershed Sentinel.
The photo came from Flickr - Photo by Stephen Boyle
by Joyce Nelson
It looks like Armageddon but it’s “just a little bit of Alberta.”
That’s what some are saying about the black clouds of “petcoke” that have been blowing off huge piles of the stuff in Detroit and Chicago, forcing residents to hide in their homes until the wind dies down, then try to hose off the black grit until the next time Alberta blows through their neighbourhoods.
By Roy L Hales
February 10, 2014 (Boulevard)--Yesterday, we reported how three authorities state Soitec's consultant is wrong, Boulevard does not possess enough water for their proposed solar project. Now a video from the February 6 community meeting, at Boulevard, reveals that Soitec's consultant, Dudek, recently underestimated the amount of water needed at SDG&E recent ECO substation project by more than three times what would be the final total. (The original estimate was 30 million gallons and the actual amount was closer to 100 million gallons.) Dudek is also alleged to have seriously underestimated the amount of water needed for the Ocotillo Wind Project. If this is true, how can we assume that Dudek's estimates for the Boulevard project are correct?
“Our forest is a delicate ecosystem being attacked by growth...This project will only add to the problems we are facing out here in the forest.” – Duncan McFetridge, founder, Cleveland National Forest Foundation (photo, left)
“We plan to rebuild existing lines in the forest to provide safe, reliable service and fire protection.” – Allen Trial, SDG&E
By Sharon A. Penny
February 6, 2014 (Alpine)--SDG&E submitted a plan to retrofit and update electric line facilities within the Cleveland National Forest into one Master Special Use Permit (MSUP). Currently, SDG&E has over 70 individual special use permits for these facilities. Many organizations and back country citizens are concerned about the need, cost, environmental impacts, and potential harm to the forest of the proposed plan of development.
On February 5, California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Administrative Law Judge Jean Vieth held a formal prehearing conference at the Alpine Community Center regarding the $418.5 million MSUP project.
“We are puzzled by recommendation not to list, given that the state’s current known wolf population is only one wolf that intermittently comes into the state. It’s hard to get more endangered than that.”--- Lauren Richie, Director of California Wolf Recovery for the California Wolf Center in Julian. “It’s hard to get more endangered than that.”
Source: California Wolf Center
February 6, 2014 (San Francisco)--. — The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has determined that protecting gray wolves under the California Endangered Species Act is not warranted. The Department presented that recommendation yesterday in a status report given to the state’s Fish and Game Commission in Sacramento.
COASTKEEPERS CALLS FOR CONSERVATION, LONG-TERM WATER PLAN FOR REGION; GROUP QUESTIONS DRAINING OF LAKE MORENA
February 10, 2014 (San Diego's East County) - “The City of San Diego has begun drawing water out of Lake Morena …Shouldn’t a reservoir that is at just 5.4% of its capacity point strongly to a need for immediate and drastic action?” --Coastkeepers
Coastkeepers, a San Diego based group addressing water issues, is speaking out on the draining of Lake Morena.
February 7, 2014 (Washington D.C.)-- Congresswoman Susan Davis (CA-53) joined her colleagues in offering an amendment to let the Secretary of the Interior include climate change in considering decisions on conservation and recreation on public lands. The amendment was an effort to improve a House majority bill attempting to undermine environmental protections for National Parks. However, the House Republican majority blocked the amendment’s passage.
Reprinted with permission from San Diego Coastkeepers; originally published February 4, 2014 at http://www.sdcoastkeeper.org/
February 8, 2014 (San Diego)--Shortly before the Governor declared an emergency state of drought in California, a question of supply arose.
In the news recently is a story about the ongoing drawdown of water from Lake Morena. To sum it all up, the City of San Diego has begun drawing water out of Lake Morena for water supply, while the County, which runs the public park surrounding Morena, is opposed to the drawdown because it claims less water in the reservoir means harm to the environment and fewer recreational opportunities.
So who is right? The City? The County?
PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION HOLDS MEETING IN ALPINE 1:30 FEB. 5 ON $418 MILLION POWER LINKE PROJECT IN AND AROUND CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST
February 4, 2014 (Alpine)-- On February 5, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will hold a prehearing conference regarding San Diego Gas & Electric’s proposed Master Special Use Permit project at 1:30 pm in the Alpine Community Center (Oak Room), 1830 Alpine Blvd., Alpine, CA 91901.
“Improving fire safety is important, and it needs to be done right at a reasonable price. We’re going to be watchdogging this nearly half a billion dollar project to ensure that San Diegans aren’t gouged and that this project really is what SDG&E says it is,” said Bill Powers, an energy expert on the board of The Protect Our Communities Foundation (POC), which will participate in the pre-hearing conference.
February 4, 2014 (Washington, D.C)--U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has honored Taylor Guitars, the internationally famed guitar maker in El Cajon, as one of three U.S. companies presented an “Award for Corporate Excellence. Secretary Kerry praised Taylor Guitars for buying an ebony mill in Cameroon and using shades of ebony in manufacturing its guitars, not just black ebony once used exclusively, to protect forests from being depleted.
FOREST SERVICE AND CPUC EXTEND SCOPING PERIOD FOR SDG&E POWERLINE PROPOSAL IN NATIONAL FORESTS LOCALLY
Meeting set for Feb. 19 in Alpine
February 4, 2014(San Diego)—U.S. Forest Service ((USFS) officials, in conjunction with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), have announced a supplemental scoping period to provide the public with an additional opportunity to comment on the topics and alternatives that should be included in the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) being prepared for the SDG&E proposal.
The Forest Service and CPUC will hold a Supplemental Scoping Meeting for the SDG&E Master Special Use Permit and Permit to Construct Power Line Replacement Projects at the Alpine Community Center, 1830 Alpine Boulevard, Alpine, CA on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. The meeting is open to all.
Left--Soitec's project in Newberry Springs scraped bare the earth and emits glare, despite company claims to the contrary.
Right--Shaded meadows with mature trees currently support a rich abundance of wildlife as well as grazing livestock. Soitec proposes to put over 8,000 panels on some 1,700 acres here in East County.
Residents have launched an online petition asking Supervisors to save their wildlife, water supplies, wild and scenic places. and put solar in urban environments instead. You can read the petition and sign it here.
By Miriam Raftery
February 2, 2014 (Sacramento)—The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is “significantly out of step with best practices in the transportation field and with the state of California’s policy expectations,” concludes an assessment review conducted by the State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI).
A key criticism was the agency’s focus on a “move cars faster” culture and a draft five-year strategic plan at Caltrans that completely ignores sustainability and state legislative goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
SAN DIEGANS TO HOLD VIGIL MONDAY FEB. 3 URGING OBAMA TO DENY KEYSTONE PIPELINE PERMIT FOLLOWING NEW STATE DEPARTMENT REPORT
Photo: 2013 rally in San Diego
By Miriam Raftery
February 1, 2014 (San Diego) – A final environmental impact statement released this week by the U.S. State Department on impacts of the Keystone XL Pipeline has alarmed environmentalists, who are organizing rallies nationwide on Monday, February 3. A candlelight vigil urging President Barack Obama to deny a permit for the controversial pipeline to pump tar sands oil across America will be held Monday night at 6 p.m. in front of the federal building at 880 Front Street in downtown San Diego.