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INVENERGY ACQUIRES SOITEC'S PLANNED MASSIVE SOLAR PROJECT IN BORREGO SPRINGS

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 4, 2014 (Borrego Springs) – Invenergy Solar Development has acquired Soitec Solar’s Desert Green Solar Farm, a 7 MW solar project slated to break ground this month in Borrego Springs. The project will include over 2,800 soitec concentrator photovoltaic modules using dual-axis tracking technology.  Commercial operation is expected to begin by the end of this year.  San Diego Gas & Electric has signed a long-term purchase agreement for power from the project, which will hook up to the existing Borrego Springs substation.

COURT RULES AGAINST EAST COUNTY RESIDENTS ON TULE WIND CASE

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 2, 2014 (McCain Valley) – U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino has issued a ruling denying summary judgment sought by the Protect Our Communities Foundation, Backcountry Against Dumps and Boulevard resident Donna Tisdale. The plaintiffs had sought to block construction of Iberdrola’s Tule Wind project in McCain Valley, a ruggedly beautiful federal recreation preserve in San Diego's East County.  The court also granted Tule Wind and the federal government’s cross motions for summary judgment.

“Our attorney is recommending an appeal of what I describe as Judge Sammartino’s basic rubber stamping of the Bureau of Land Management’s biased and weak support for Iberdrola’s Tule Wind project,” Tisdale told ECM.  She added that she, too, is recommending an appeal, though that decision will be up to the boards of directors of the two nonprofits.

U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE WARNS OF NEGATIVE IMPACTS ON WILDLIFE FROM SOITEC SOLAR PROJECTS

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 1, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Soitec’s four proposed solar projects on 1,490 acres in the Boulevard area of East County could negatively impact migratory birds, eagles, endangered butterflies and wildlife corridors,  Karen Goebel, assistant field supervisor with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife concludes in a comment letter sent to the County regarding the projects’ draft Enviornmental Impact Report (DEIR) on March 11, 2014. The letter also indicates studies have been inadequate and cumulative impacts of projects across a broader area need to be evaluated.

HUESO ASKS FAA TO GRANT RELIEF TO OCOTILLO RESIDENTS FROM WIND TURBINE LIGHTS, APPROVE RADAR-ACTIVATED LIGHTING

 

 

 

 

FAA may approve radar lighting systems, but won’t require Pattern to install

By Miriam Raftery

March 30, 2014 (Ocotillo) – State Senator Ben Hueso has taken heed of his constituents’ complaints about flashing red lights on wind turbines shining into people’s homes at night.  In a February 10, 2014 letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Hueso wrote that flashing red lights on over 100 turbines, each taller than a 40 story building, are harmful to the health of Ocotillo residents.

“As most of them live within two miles of these turbines, the steady light transmitted from these structures is causing them to suffer from migraines, vertigo and loss of sleep,”  Hueso wrote. He added that his staff has looked into the issue and found studies indicated that “residents living in such c lose proximity to turbines often suffer from illnesses including chronic sleep deprivation, hypertension and heart attack. Ocotillo is made up largely of senior citizens, a group which has been found to be exceptionally sensitive to the effects of the turbines.”

HUGE WIN FOR SOLAR HOMES

 

A surge in solar growth is expected after today's announcement

March 27, 2014 (San Diego)-- The California Public Utilities Commission made a final decision today that has solar homeowners celebrating. The Commission unanimously voted to protect California’s solar customers’ net energy metering contracts for 20 years. Net energy metering allows the meter to spin backwards, giving customers full credit for electricity produced by solar panels that is not used in the building. The highly anticipated decision is a part of Assembly Bill 327 (AB327).

IBERDROLA VIOLATING FIRE CODES, LIED TO OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE, SAYS NH FIRE MARSHALL

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 26, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) –Last week, we reported  on the latest in a string of fires at Iberdrola wind facilities, last time at a Pennsylvania site. Some involved turbines made by Gamesa, in which Iberdrola owns a controlling interest.  Fires have occurred with other Gamesa turbines at additional sites.

Meanwhile in  New Hampshire, ECM has learned that State Fire Marshal Rob Anstey has accused Iberdrola of violating fire safety codes and lying to an oversight committee about the Fire Marshal’s requirements at its Groton Wind facility. The Fire Marshall has announced that he may issue a stop work order to shut down the facility.

That should spark concern here in San Diego, where Supervisors and the federal government recently approved Tule Wind, an Iberdrola wind project slated to go into a region prone to cstastrophic wildfires including the 2007 Harris Fire, which was fueled by 100 mph hurricane-force winds. Campgrounds are located in McCain Valley, where Iberdrola aims to line the only road in and out with wind turbines, each filled with hundreds of gallons of flammable lubricating oil.  Former Cal Fire Batallion Chief Mark Ostrander has warned that firefighters can't fight fires under a flaming turbine whirling off debris, and aerial drops won't work at heights above 300 feet. The turbines are 500 feet, so firefighters would have to wait for the fire to burn outside of the wind facility, which could result in a firestorm that could burn into urban San Diego areas, he has warned.

TREASURY INSPECTION FINDS HALF OF BIG WIND AND SOLAR COMPANIES EXAMINED ARE ILLEGALLY DOUBLE-DIPPING TAXPAYER FUNDS

 

By Miriam Raftery

More troubling issues are coming to light regarding renewable energy developers and their projects. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration inspected records for 16 big renewable energy companies--and found that half had been double dipping. 

The IRS says that many more wind and solar development owners may be taking money they are not entitled to, Rewire Magazine reports.   Projects subsidized by the federal stimulus program are not eligible to also pocket wind power tax credits.  The IRS says it doesn’t have way to check – but believes that over half the stimulus grant recipients should have audits to take a closer look.

WIND TURBINE AT IBERDROLA WIND FARM CATCHES FIRE

 

Part III in our "Wind Fire" series

Will Iberdrola use fire-prone Gamesa turbines in East County?

By Miriam Raftery

March 20, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Iberdrola wants to build an industrial wind facility in McCain Valley. The company has claimed that the odds of one of its turbine catching fire are infinitesimal.  But on March 15, a wind turbine at Iberdrola’s Locust Ridge wind facility in Mahonay City, Pennsylvania caught fire, sending flames arcing out until ultimately the fire burned itself out, as shown on video. This is the latest in a long string of fires involving Gamesa turbines including some at Iberdrola facilities.

What would happen if this occurred in McCain Valley, amid fire-prone brush in a hard-to-access area where campgrounds are located at the end of a canyon with only one access road, set to be lined by wind turbines?  And why aren't Supervisors taking steps to protect public safety by barring fire-prone wind turbine products in our region?

COUNTY OFFERS VIDEOS ON WATER CONSERVATION GARDENING

 

March 20, 2014 (San Diego)--California is in the midst of a drought emergency, and there’s no relief in sight as our unseasonably warm winter continues. Gov. Jerry Brown is asking all residents to cut water use by 20 percent — something that may be easier than you think.

EXPERTS VOICE ALARM OVER SURVIVAL OF LOCAL BIGHORN SHEEP

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 17, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Could big energy projects proposed in East County lead to the decimation of federally endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep? 

From 1972 to the present, the Carrizo Gorge band of these bighorns has plummeted from about 120 sheep to less than 40.  “Off-road vehicles, trespassing cattle, poaching in the 1960s and ‘70s, drought, disease and Mountain Lion predation have worked together to push this population o the edge. We hope we can save this group before it is too late,” Mark Jorgensen, advisor to the Bighorn Institute and former Superintendent of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park wrote in the Desert News.

In his comments submitted on  four solar projects proposed by Soitec in Boulevard, Jorgensen writes that “Construction of yet another group of solar projects will further impede the free movement of wildlife by reducing habitat connectivity and ruining wildlife corridors.”  He further notes that Soitec’s sites are very near lands purchased and set aside specifically to protect species  the endangered bighorn, golden eagles and other species in peril.

CALIFORNIANS CONSUME THE LEAST ELECTRICITY NATIONWIDE

 

 

March 17, 2014 (Arlington, VA)-- Californians consume the least electricity per-person of any state in the country, according to new 2014 state energy rankings from EnergyTrends.org.

BOARD ACTS TO EXPAND OPEN SPACE, OVERHAUL PARK IN JULIAN

 

March 17, 2014 (Julian)--The County is taking steps to buy more land at Volcan Mountain near Julian for open space. The Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to hold a hearing April 16 to consider buying 114 acres of land located north of Banner Road and east of Farmer Road. The area is next to the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve.

MCCOY & BLYTHE SOLAR PROJECTS APPROVED, DESPITE SACRED SITES WITH ANCIENT GEOGLYPHS

 

By Roy L Hales

Deadline for public comments on changes March 24

March 15, 2014 (Mojave Desert)--The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has approved “the construction, operation and maintenance, and decommissioning of an up to 750-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) solar energy generation facility and related infrastructure called the McCoy Solar Energy Project.This project follows on the heels of the California Energy Commission’s approval of a similar project by NextEra Blythe Solar Energy.

HELP IMPROVE OUR WATER QUALITY: SUBMIT YOUR WATER PROJECT IDEAS BY MARCH 28

 

Public Service Announcement: San Diego County

March 13, 2014 (San Diego)--The County of San Diego needs your help in identifying potential storm water quality improvement projects.  Recently adopted regulations require that the County identify and pursue a variety of on-the-ground projects to improve regional storm water quality.  The first step in this process is to assess and locate potential projects that could be implemented.  

Project types that may be considered include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following categories:

  • Stream or riparian area rehabilitation
  • Retrofitting existing infrastructure (Green Streets, Low Impact Development, Treatment);
  • Regional BMP’s (best management practices for stormwater treatment basins);
  • Groundwater recharge projects (infiltration basins);
  • Water supply augmentation projects (large cisterns); and
  • Land purchases to preserve floodplain functions.

Project suggestions will be accepted until March 28, 2014.  Scroll down for details.

WIND TURBINES MAY HARM LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE, STUDY SUGGESTS

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 6, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Are wind turbines safe for wildlife, livestock and humans living nearby?  A new study published in the Journal of Veterinary Sciences has found that geese living near wind turbines suffered loss of appetite, weight loss, and measurable physical changes.

COURT RULING AWAITED ON TULE WIND PROJECT

 

Judge announces tentative ruling – before hearing arguments

By Sharon Penny

March 6, 2014 (San Diego)--On March 3, U.S. District Court Judge Janis L. Sammartino heard testimony from legal representatives for both sides in a lawsuit brought by the Protect Our Communities Foundation (POC – www.protectourcommunities.org) against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over controversial approvals for Iberdrola's controversial Tule Wind project planned in Boulevard’s McCain Valley Recreation and Conservation Area in East County.

The POC originally filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in August 2013. This week marked the first hearing under the U.S. District Court. According to Plaintiff Donna Tisdale, POC’s attorney Stephan C. Volker had prepared for a one hour argument and was surprised by the Judge’s announcement that she had a tentative ruling in hand. The judge read that ruling aloud, took a 15 minute break for attorneys to prepare a response.  Each side was then allowed a half hour to argue their points and one minute for rebuttal.

ALPINE CREEK STREAM RESTORATION: DEMONSTRATION PROJECT MARCH 8

 

March 5, 2014 (Alpine)--Join Back Country Land Trust & Endangered Habitats Conservancy (EHC) along Alpine Creek for the kick-off of a new volunteer workshop series in 2014.  This first hands-on restoration event will celebrate National Invasive Species Awareness Week as the organizations begin a community-based stream restoration project along this section of Alpine Boulevard by removing non-native & invasive plants from the stream bank along Alpine Creek.

SAN DIEGANS TO JOIN RALLY IN STATE CAPITOL AGAINST FRACKING

 

 

Area Environmentalists Chartering Buses for Trip North on March 15

March  2, 2014 (San Diego)--A large number of local environmental groups are joining forces for a big rally on March 15 in Sacramento to urge Governor Brown for a moratorium on fracking in California.  Activists expect this event to be the largest mobilization against fracking ever seen.

Over 150 statewide environmental organizations will be represented at the rally, called "Californians Against Fracking," which is scheduled to include a march around the Capitol area and a rally with speakers on the capitol steps.  With a new Public Policy Institute survey showing that 51 percent of Californians oppose the increased use of fracking in the state, organizers are expecting several thousand people to join the rally.   

CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT ON OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE GRANT APPLICATION

 

March 1, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) -- Cleveland National Forest officials will submit a cooperative grant application to the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Division for 2013/2014 "Green Sticker" grants.  Beginning March 4, 2014, the application can be viewed by clicking on the "Grants" tab on the California State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation website at www.ohv.parks.ca.gov. Comments on the application must be received by April 7, 2014.

CUYAMACA COLLEGE HOSTS SUSTAINABLE TURF AND LANDSCAPE SEMINAR MARCH 6

 

March 1, 2014 (El Cajon)--A national expert in golf course environmental stewardship is a speaker for Cuyamaca College’s 6th Annual Sustainable Turf and Landscape Seminar set for Thursday, March 6.

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.

TWO LAWSUITS OVER LOCAL WIND ENERGY ISSUES HEAD TO COURT

 

 

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.

EARTH TALK: DIRTY FUELS

 

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.

HIGH COURT TO WEIGH GREENHOUSE GAS REGULATIONS

 

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.

MORE SOLAR FARMS PLANNED FOR SEVERAL BACKCOUNTRY COMMUNITIES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

IF YOU GROW IT, THEY WILL COME

 

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.

STATE REPORT: ONLY A HANDFUL OF GOLDEN EAGLE NEST SITES REMAIN IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY

 

 

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.

MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS OPPOSE SOITEC SOLAR PROJECTS, WARN OF PERMANENT ECOLOGICAL HARM

 

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.

HERO PACE REACHES SAN DIEGO, MOST OF CALIFORNIA

 

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.

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