(Image:   View from Boulevard’s Tierra Del Sol Road of the Sierra Juarez mountain range looking across Jewel Valley and Jacumba Valley—where real people and diverse wildlife now reside. Wind turbines close to 500 feet tall have been proposed by Enel Green Power on the Tierra Del Sol ridgeline in the foreground and on the distant Sierra Juarez ridgeline in Northern Baja by SDG&E’s parent Sempra. – Bill Parsons photo)

By Roy Hales

Reprinted with permission from San Diego Loves Green

June 20, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- The County’s Board of Supervisors are being sued for approving their  Wind Energy Ordinance & Plan Amendment last Month. The  California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) complaint was filed last week by Stephan C. Volker, of Volker Law, on behalf of two rural East County grassroots non-profit groups: Protect Our Communities Foundation (POC) & Backcountry against Dumps (BAD).

They are challenging the vote approving the Wind Energy Ordinance and Plan Amendment, which they claim “gutted”  the Boulevard Community Plan, approved by the Supervisors in August 2011, and violated two passages in the first Article of the California Constitution:

  • Section 7 (a): “ A person may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law or denied equal protection of the laws
  • Section 7.2.B: “A citizen or class of citizens may not be granted privileges or immunities not granted on the same terms to all citizens. Privileges or immunities granted by the Legislature may be altered or revoked.”
Donna Tisdale - Courtesy East County Magazine

Donna Tisdale – Courtesy East County Magazine

“Iberdrola, Soitec, SDG&E, Sempra, Sol Orchard, and other wind & solar developers are being granted lucrative special privileges and immunities at the expense of the health, safety, and socioeconomic well being of disproportionately impacted rural residents–in direct violation of our state and federal constitutional rights for equal protection under the law,”  said Donna Tisdale, POC Secretary, BAD President, and Chair of Boulevard Planning Group.

I happened to be interview the well known engineer Bill Powers, in connection with another article, and asked what he thought of the suit.

“This shows you how skewered the playing field is right now,“ he said. “Why would you erect elaborate solar facilities on such difficult terrain, 60 – 70 miles from the city, when you could be putting the same solar panels up in the parking lots and rooftops of San Diego? There is no need for all those miles of transmission lines. All they do is provide utilities companies with a justification to charge high fees. The utility companies are desperately looking for a way to maintain control. They know that the greatest threat to their existence comes from homeowners who generate their own power.”

I also reached out to two of the Supervisors, whose staff informed me they cannot comment on this because of the pending litigation.

Mr Volker put forward an extensive list of complaints in his writ, which I will attempt to summarize:

These wind projects were being put on land whose zoning classifications “do not allow large wind turbines  or any other industrial-scale energy facilities…” This violates the Planning and Zoning Law and creates an internal conflict within the County Zoning Ordinance.

The Board’s exemption of the Tule Wind Project from the acoustical study requirement likewise violates the Planning and Zoning Law. This action “is the epitome of a non-uniform zoning regulation that Government Code Section 68582 forbids.”

Mr Volker further contends the Board of Supervisors’ Environmental Impact Report (EIR) does not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act because it:

  1. fails  to analyze significant public safety impacts of wind turbines, including from blade throw and wind turbine collapse
  2. fails to respond to comments on the Projects public safety impacts
  3. fails to analyze the public health impacts of infrasound and low-frequency noise
  4. fails to adequately analyze the public health impacts of wind turbine generated electric and magnetic fields including excessive ground currents and dangerous stray voltage
  5. fails to analyze the impacts on bats of barotrauma cause by wind turbine operations
  6. fails to analyze the Project’s water supply impacts

As regard the last point, Mr Volker pointed out that the Supervisor’s EIR failed to identify and analyze the sources of water for future wind projects and totally omits any discussion of  water supplies other than groundwater or the likelihood that wind projects would use them. This issue is critical to the residents of East County whose water supplies may be threatened if these projects go forward.

Mr Volker stressed that while the Board had discussed the health impacts of electric and magnetic fields, they were used dated materials that do not contain the most current scientific evidence.

One of the safety issues came to public attention the day after the Supervisor’s meeting, when a 173 foot long blade flew off one of the turbines at Ocotillo and fell across an unoccupied roadway.

Ms Tisdale said, ““Boulevard has first-hand experience with adverse impacts from wind turbines including catastrophic failures at Buckeye Wind in the 80’s with one fatality, closure of Tierra Del Sol Road, and at least one blade thrown almost 1 mile away, and at Infigen’s Kumeyaay Wind in 2009 where turbine parts were thrown about ¼ mile and all 75 blades and other components had to be replaced. Yesterday, Gamesa and Infigen announced settlement of their years-long $30 million plus lawsuit over the catastrophic failure at Kumeyaay Wind without disclosure of the cause.”  

Supervisor Dianne Jacob, the only Supervisor who voted against the Wind Energy Ordinance Amendment, was among those named in the suit, but this was most likely a formality. Ms Jacob’s opposition to the industrial scale developments going into East County, because of the increased threat of fire in an area that has a history of fires, is a matter of public record.