Image left: Bighorn Sheep at Ocotillo - Robert Baran photo, East County Magazine
By Roy L. Hales at San Diego Loves Green, originally posted April 21, 2013
April 23, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The California Association of Environmental Professionals has awarded the Ocotillo Wind project with its highest award for Outstanding Environmental Analysis and Documentation at a joint conference of AEP and the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP). The Builder, Pattern Energy, claims, “The Ocotillo Wind project will provide enough clean and renewable energy to power nearly 125,000 homes in Southern California each year.”
Speaking as a non-scientist, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the name Ocotillo is a stream of videos (click on this link to go to the Save Ocotillo index page) that stretches beyond the four months this project has been online and continues to document the scarcity of wind. Though not a “scientific study,” they never-the-less constitute a visual chronology that includes a great many details that would not otherwise be available to the public. One has to merely scan the titles to realize something is very wrong:
April 21, 2013 (Santee) – What began eight years ago as Santee’s homegrown observance of Arbor Day and Earth Day has blossomed into an all-day extravaganza named SanTree Fest.
”We named it SanTree Fest because it began as a simple gathering of local families, scout troops and young people to green up our parks with trees,” said Recreation Coordinator Bree Stanley. “While the focus is still on the environment and sustainability, we’ve made it more fun for the entire family.”
This year’s daylong festival will feature more booths, more free activities for children, and more entertainment.
By Miriam Raftery
April 21, 2013 (San Diego) – “Another scourge is beginning in California,” environmental activist Peg Mitchell told audience members at a forum on environmental justice issues hosted by Activist San Diego on April 15. That “scourge” is fracking – and in California, it’s all about extracting oil, not natural gas.
To frack for oil requires millions of gallons of water –a precious commodity in Cailfornia. It also means injecting toxic chemicals that corporations are not required to disclose due to the “Halliburton Law” pushed through by former Vice President Dick Cheney.
The public doesn’t have a right to know where fracking is occurring or where its waste products will be dumped—even though fracking can cause earthquakes, disturb radioactive substances in the earth, reinject contaminated water into wells, and potentially pollute thousands of miles of coastline.
So why the push to frack for oil in California?
Annual event has become one of the largest community events in East County
April 11, 2013 (Rancho San Diego)--With farmer’s markets, community gardens and urban farming growing ever popular among the health- and conservation-minded in East County, it’s no wonder the Spring Garden Festival at Cuyamaca College has become such a major draw.
This year’s festival on Saturday, April 27, marks the 20th anniversary of the event, which began in 1993 as the Urban Forest Field Day, an outreach activity for arboriculture students to demonstrate what they’ve learned. The free festival has grown to become a showcase event for the college’s entire ornamental horticulture program, as well as the Heritage of the Americas Museum and the co-sponsoring Water Conservation Garden, both located on the Rancho San Diego campus. With the addition of local artisans, vendors, kid-friendly activities, and a variety of plant and garden societies, the festival now attracts about 7,000 visitors annually.
SIERRA CLUB WINS LAWSUIT ON COUNTY'S CLIMATE ACTION PLAN: JUDGE RULES “ENFORCEABLE MITIGATION MEASURES ARE NECESSARY NOW”
Exclusive to ECM: How decision could impact East County's transportation and energy production
By Miriam Raftery
April 20, 2013 (San Diego) – On the eve of Earth Day events, the Sierra Club has won a critical lawsuit challenging the County of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). On April 19, Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor issued his final ruling agreeing with the Sierra Club that the County’s Climate Action Plan “contains no enforcement mechanism for reducing GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions.”
The ruling could have significant consequences for East County, where numerous large wind and solar projects have been pushed through under the mantra of addressing climate change.
On one hand, the decision could bolster arguments of some Supervisors who view large energy projects as the fastest or easiest way to meet goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
On the other hand, the ruling also forces the County to conduct an Environmental Impact Report - opening up the process for public comment. That could include discussion of how much fossil fuel it takes to manufacture, build and operate industrial-scale wind and solar projects--and whether there are better alternatives, such as solar on roofs and parking lots in urban areas.
By Colin Martodam, regional manager of ARS
April 20, 2013 (San Diego) – In honor of this year’s Earth Day on April 22, take action to make your home a hub of energy-efficient practices. “Going green” is no longer just the catch phrase of environmental advocates, celebrities and politicians. Now, you and your neighbors are empowered to make environmentally friendly changes to your home to address the growing concerns of a shaky economy, increasing energy costs, and our ever-dwindling natural resources.
EAGLE EXPERT HIRED BY WIND INDUSTRY LOCALLY PLEADS GUILTY TO ILLEGAL GOLDEN EAGLE TAKE AND FAILING TO FILE REPORTS ON BIRDS HE TRACKED
By Miriam Raftery
April 19, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – David Bittner, eagle expert with Wildlife Research Institute, pled guilty to federal charges of unlawful taking of a Golden Eagle without a permit and failing to file any data reports for a four-year period on birds that he had banded.
Bittner conducted studies on Golden Eagles for Iberdrola’s Tule Wind project in East County, which was approved by the federal government on public lands as well as by the county on private properties. Portions of the project on state and tribal lands, where several Golden Eagle nests were reported, are pending approvals by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and State Lands Commission.
“Can those agencies rely on Bittner’s Golden Eagle work for Tule wind that was apparently unpermitted and unlawful?” asks Donna Tisdale, chair of Boulevard Planning Group and a founder of two citizens groups, Protect Our Communities Foundation and Backcountry Against Dumps, that has filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the project. “What other breaches of law or professional ethics might be involved?”
SDG&E ANNOUNCES NEW POWER PURCHASE AGREEMENTS, INCLUDING SOLAR PROJECTS IN POTRERO AND VALLEY CENTER
By Miriam Raftery
April 18, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) yesterday announced it has signed five new renewable power purchase agreements including two in San Diego County. But oddly, a local planner and a news editor in these rural communities have told ECM they were unaware of these projects.
SDG&E’s release did not state where in San Diego County the projects would be located. Jennifer Ramp with SDG&E has informed ECM that the two local projects are Silverado Power, LLC’s Zodiac Solar (20 Megawatts) in Potrero and Northlight Power’s C908 Solar project (7 MW) in Valley Center. Both projects are newly executed and have not yet been approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, Ramp said.
California woman shocked in shower by voltage from substation wins landmark case;
Stray voltage complaints, health concerns mount in East County
By Miriam Raftery
April 16, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – A toddler living near the Kumeyaay Wind facility in Campo has had a tumor the size of a potato chip bag removed from her abdomen, Boulevard Planning Group Chair revealed last night at an Activist San Diego event on energy issues last night.
Other people living near wind turbines and an electric substation in the vicinity have developed brain, stomach and kidney cancers—symptoms linked to exposure to electricity and stray voltage, as ECM has reported.
April 14, 2013 (San Diego) – Dear EarthTalk: What would you say are the most important steps we need to take as a nation to counter the impacts of climate change?
- Ned Parkinson, Chino, CA
Americans care more about the environment than ever before and the overwhelming majority of us acknowledges that climate change is real and human-induced. But still we continue to consume many more resources per capita than any other nation and refuse to take strong policy action to stave off global warming—even though we have the power to do so.
April 14, 2013 (San Diego) -- Dear EarthTalk: I know that some of us are genetically predisposed to get cancer, but what are some ways we can avoid known environmental triggers for it?
- B. Northrup, Westport, MA
Cancer remains the scourge of the American health care system, given that four out of every 10 of us will be diagnosed with one form or another during out lifetime. Some of us are genetically predisposed toward certain types of cancers, but there is much we can do to avoid exposure to carcinogens in our environment.
EAST COUNTY LEADERS AMONG THOSE SPEAKING OUT APRIL 15 AT SAN DIEGO EVENT ON ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ISSUES
April 13, 2013 (San Diego) – A growing movement seeks to build awareness of social and environmental justice issues related to energy production. While the world has jumped on the “green bandwagon” in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use of fossil fuels and nuclear, how much difference are alternatives such as wind and solar power really making? What are the unforeseen consequences on communities, public health and the environment? Why isn’t the media reporting on these issues?
On April 15, prominent environmentalists and community leaders will speak on local experiences and on growing national/international movements seeking social and environmental justice. Speakers at the event titiled “Energy Projects, Fracking, and Rights of Mother Earth” include Donna Tisdale, chair of Boulevard Planning Group and co-founder of two nonprofits battling big energy projects in East County, Terry Weiner with the Desert Protective Council and Solar Done Right, attorney Bill Pate who handled a legal challenge to the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility, Peg Mitchell with SanDiego350.org and Citizens Climate Lobby, and Carlos Pelayo, Asociación de Jornaleros y Trabajadores de Casa.
April 13, 2013 (San Diego) – Echo Eden along with community partners San Diego Loves Green, Live Fit Films, Regenerative Homes and Heartland Coalition announce the Earth Day Food Forest Campaign in San Diego. Together these organizations have come together to help launch the first phase of a new regional community garden initiative that they are spearheading for the San Diego region. Community members are invited to do something meaningful this Earth Day and support this project by buying a 5' to 7' fruit or nut bearing tree that can either be planted in the first of its kind Food Forest or in your own yard.
By Nadin Abbott
April 12, 2013 (San Diego)— County Supervisors directed the Chief Administration Officer, by a 3-2 vote, to come back in 120 days with options for a comprehensive renewable energy plan, including time and cost estimates. The measure was introduced by Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who believes it is time to stop the ad hoc way of authorizing each proposed energy development.
Jacob, who represents the 2nd district in East County where most of these projects are proposed, said before the vote that this is “a double edge sword” for her. Projects already underway will be grandfathered in and not affected, according to Jacob’s instructions. She emphasized this point to Industry members present who raised opposition to this plan.
April 12, 2013 (Mt. Helix) – The Fourth Annual East County Earth Day, a free, family-fun event, will be held at Mt. Helix Park and Amphitheater on April 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Co-hosted by The Jarrett Meeker and Mt. Helix Park Foundations, East County Earth Day will feature eco-friendly vendors, live music, speakers, an art contest, wildlife presentations, an Earth Day scavenger hunt and games for children.
Vendors include Birch Aquarium, The California Wolf Center and I Love A Clean San Diego with interactive environmental and wildlife presentations.
Wind ordinance on agenda for May 9
April 8, 2013 (San Diego’s East County ) – On May 8, County Supervisors will hear a controversial wind ordinance that would make it easier to build wind turbines in some areas of East County.
But this Wednesday, April 10, the agenda will include a proposal by Supervisor Dianne Jacob for staff to develop a comprehensive renewable energy plan including options to integrate the proposed wind ordinance into a renewable energy plan, as well as examining options such as the San Diego Energy Foundation's proposal with emphasis on rooftop solar. Supervisors meet at 9 a.m. at the County Administration Center, 1600 Pacific Coast Highway in San Diego. If approved, staff would then have several weeks to come back with proposed language.
Below is the exact language from the agenda:
April 4, 2013 (Lakeside) – The Solana Center in partnership with the County of San Diego and the Resource Conservation District will be hosting a free rainwater harvesting workshop in Lakeside on April 13th from 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. at the Resource Conservation District, 11769 Waterhill Road.
Join the Solana Center and the County of San Diego to learn how rainwater collection can benefit your home and garden and which system is best for you! Workshop will include a hands-on installation of a rain barrel and cost-effective tips on how to build your own. Pre-register at: www.solanacenter.org/event/free-rainwater-harvesting-workshop
APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS FHFA RULING BARRING RESIDENTIAL PACE, BUT COMMERCIAL PACE ADOPTION CONTINUES IN CA
San Diego clean energy lender FIGTREE provides up-front funding for businesses to finance energy, water savings
Photos provided by FIGTREE and SunUpEnergy
April 2, 2013 (San Diego) – Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing is alive and well in California despite last month’s surprise 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. The Court ruled that the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) was within its rights as a ‘conservator’ of mortgages held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in issuing a ruling against PACE, effectively putting the brakes on residential PACE financing for homeowners across the U.S..
Despite that setback, adoption of commercial PACE programs is continuing, reports commercial PACE provider FIGTREE Energy Financing of San Diego. FIGTREE is the first company in California to successfully raise private capital for commercial PACE projects via a multi-jurisdictional bond issue.
Editor's note: This is a victory born in the Idle No More Movement for Native rights, which has spread from Canada to the U.S. ECM recently covered Idle No More speakers in San Diego, including local Kumeyaay members.
By Sarah Hales-Ried (reprinted with permission of San Diego Loves Green)
March 28, 2013 (Ottaway, Canada)--After over two months and 1600 kilometres (approx. 994 miles) of walking, the journey of Nishiyuu - a Cree word meaning “the people” - reached Cam-nada's Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on Monday, March 25. That same day, Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, formally welcomed eight First Nation communities into Canada's First Nations Land Management regime.
Your right to challenge clearance projects may be taken away
UPDATE: COMMENT PERIOD EXTENDED TO APRIL 8
By Miriam Raftery
Updated March 28, 2013 (San Diego's East County)--The California Board of Forestry and CalFire has released a proposal to target about 38 million acres (1/3rd of the entire state) to be burned, chewed-up, or sprayed with herbicides. This increases its habitat clearance program five times over current levels in what the California Chaparral Institute (CCI) calls a “major threat” to wildlife.
Robert S. Taylor Jr., a fire specialist with the National Park Service, has also blasted the proposal as a “very poor use of public funds” that would cause irreversible environmental damage. “I strongly recommend that Cal Fire withdraw the current proposal and produce a new one based on best available science," he wrote. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has also criticized the plan.
By Laura Chapman
March 28, 2013 (San Diego's East County)--We all know about going "green" around our homes. Recycling newspapers, plastic and aluminum has become so commonplace that we actually look for recycling bins when we're out and about. How many times have you gone to a dinner party and helped with the cleanup by asking, "Do you recycle?" All of this is aimed at the goal of reducing our individual carbon footprints. If we can all lower the amount of carbon by-products released into the atmosphere we'll be taking proactive steps to bolster our fragile eco-system.
Now the green movement has spread beyond homes and businesses and out into the travel industry. Yes, you can see the world and still go green.
By Janis Mork
March 22, 2013 (El Cajon)- East County’s newest farmers’ market had its grand opening yesterday on the Prescott Promenade in downtown El Cajon. Many people came, young and old, single and families, all flocking to check out what this market had to offer. Shoppers found a unique blend of fresh produce, unique ethnic and multicultural foods, fresh flowers, baked goods, hot entrees and specialty foods.
An International Rescue Committee (IRC) spokesman thanked the public for coming out and supporting the new market, which benefits not only the community, but also local refugees who are growing some of the fresh produce sold here.
By Miriam Raftery
March 20, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Pattern Energy has claimed that a Merlin Avian Radar system at its Ocotillo Express Wind Facility will detect eagles and allow turbines to be shut down to save them from the whirling blades. Avian radar is also proposed at other wind projects proposed in East County.
But now ECM has learned that an eagle was killed at Pattern’s Spring Valley Wind project near Great Basin National Park in Nevada. According to Bureau of Land Management documents, Pattern had claimed in Appendix F, its Avian and Bat Protection Plan, that it planned to install three separate radar systems at the Spring Valley project to prevent deaths of birds and bats, including both Merlin and Vesper technology.
Pattern did not respond to an ECM request for comment. The death, along with mounting evidence indicating avian radar is failing to protect birds at wind sites, raises serious concerns over the fate of eagles in our region, where three more wind farms are proposed in San Diego’s East County.
The week-long festival includes keynote speaker, Leilani Munter, the world’s No. 1 Eco-Athlete.
March 15, 2013 (San Diego)--All next week, San Diego State University's Associated Students will host GreenFest, a week-long festival that educates the campus community about sustainability, while promoting school spirit. The keynote speaker, Leilani Munter,is the world’s number one eco-athlete. For full schedule and details, please read more.
Measure will lead to taxpayer savings, energy efficiency
March 14, 2013 (San Diego)--County Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Dave Roberts want to save taxpayers’ money and quickly bring more energy-saving projects like solar to the region.
Several days after meeting with San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to discuss energy issues, Roberts and Jacob on Tuesday pushed for more green energy and less reliance on fossil-fuels in the county’s unincorporated area. Roberts called for a working partnership with the city of San Diego “on all things green”.
By Miriam Raftery
March 13, 2013 (Boulevard) – Iberdrola’s Tule Wind project has been slapped with a federal complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The lawsuit was filed by two nonprofits in San Diego’s Rural East County, the Protect Our Communities Foundation and Backcountry Against Dumps.
If built, Tule Wind’s phase I would include 67 turbines on federal land, each nearly 500 feet tall in rugged McCain Valley, a federal wildlife management and popular recreation area. Additional turbines are planned on adjoining state, tribal and private property. Turbines would be close to campgrounds and homes in rural Boulevard, a predominantly low income community in East County where numerous other massive-scale energy projects have already been proposed. (See map showing cumulative impacts.)
“Eastern San Diego County is targeted as a rural sacrifice industrial energy and transmission zone without benefit of equal protection under the law,” said Donna Tisdale, also a plaintiff in the suit.
Mayor Filner announces major solar initiatives
By Hugh Moore, Treasurer, San Diego County Green Party
March, 8, 2013(San Diego) -- When Dr. Jill Stein ran on a platform for President of the U.S. calling for the New Green Deal , I doubt that she imagined her platform would be the newest initiative of the Mayor of San Diego or the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. San Diego having a long history of being more than a little to the right on the political spectrum a shift to the left would have seemed unlikely just a few months ago.
However, Mayor Bob Filner just announced his new solar initiative, planning to put solar panels on every city building within five years. And this is not the end of the initiative. Mayor Filner wants the whole County to become the leader in alternative energy production with a goal of ending up with all the power used in the County being produced by solar and other renewable sources. This initiative is being supported by two of the five San Diego County Board of Supervisors (Dianne Jacobs and Dave Roberts).
BILL WOULD LET ENERGY COMPANIES REMOVE NESTS AND EGGS, EXEMPT COMPANIES FROM PENALTIES FOR KILLING EAGLES, HAWKS AND OTHER RAPTORS
By Miriam Raftery
March 9, 2013 (Sacramento)—Wildlife experts are reacting with outrage to AB 516, a bill in the California Legislature that would allow energy and utility companies to obtain “take” permits authorizing destruction of birds, eggs and nest that stand in the way of electrical transmission infrastructure.
SDG&E was caught flying helicopters too close to protected eagle nests at least four times during construction of Sunrise Powerlink. Those incursions in three East County locations resulted in removal of one pilot and suspension of others, as well as grounding, GPS tracking and other regulatory enforcement actions. But if this bill goes through, such activities could occur without penalty in the future.