By Miriam Raftery
Photos: Fire at wind turbine in Campo sparked brush fire; Eco Substation in Jacumba mars desert views
November 27, 2016 (San Diego) - The Boulevard Planning Group voted unanimously to send a letter to County officials voicing concerns that the County’s Climate Action Plan and Comprehensive Renewable Energy Plan will adversely impact the Boulevard/Jacumba area, where mostly low-income residents have already been “disproportionately targeted” for 31 major energy–related projects planned, approved or built in the past decade, according to a letter signed by BPG Chair Donna Tisdale.
Those include massive industrial scale wind and solar projects that scrape bare thousands of acres, along with related transmission lines and substations, creating environmental and public safety threats of their own.
The County is moving forward with the plans, along with a General Plan Amendment, to comply with state mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as a court order following a Sierra Club lawsuit. Tisdale says the rural planning group supports incentives to support renewable power but wants priority given to smaller-scale projects close to where power will be used.
“There is no need for industrial scale rural energy or transmission projects that increase fire risk, impede firefighting, destroy carbon sequestering arid soils and vegetation, increase dust and dust borne pathogens, consume millions of gallons of water, and degrade property values and tourism draw. Point-of-use self generation renewable alternatives, where the energy is consumed, should be prioritized,” her letter states.
She adds, “We are concerned that the pending combined CREP / CAP may further adversely impact our rural communities, community character, quality of life, a wide variety of natural resources including sole-source groundwater, clean air, wildlife, public health and safety, increased fire risk and heat islands, and other socio-economic issues, unnecessarily.”
The rural planners want to see environmental justice impacts fully analyzed in the county’s plans. They also want to see solar net metering count toward the state’s renewable energy mandate; currently only utility-scale industrial projects are allowed to be counted, creating a misleading undercounting of alternative energy already being produced.
SDG&E reports that it is on track to meet state mandates for 40% renewable energy by 2018 and 50% by 2030; the utility already met the required 33% renewable energy mandate six years early.
Planners also want to see the county consider the potential for community choice aggregate (CCA) programs, i.e. alternatives to SDG&E that could potentially provide more clean power at competitive rates. Currently several local cities are considering such options.
Energy companies and the county have pushed through gigantic scale projects such as Tule Wind slated to be built on largely public recreational lands in McCain Valley. Tisdale states, “Feel good mitigation measures that are artfully weasel worded to downplay and marginalize the very real impacts felt at ground – zero in our rural communities must be avoided.“
The letter also takes the county to task for reducing rural bus routes, not providing adequate charging stations for electric vehicles in rural areas, not adequately protecting forests and other vegetation, not adequately assessing groundwater impacts of major projects, and restricting future wind energy projects only to the already heavily-impacted Boulevard community.