January 19, 2014 (San Diego) --U.S. Forest Service officials announced on January 17th the release of the Draft Records of Decision for a Proposed Amendment to the Land Management Plans for the four Southern California national forests (the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino).
The publication of a legal notice in each national forest’s newspaper of record begins the 60-day objection period.
On January 17, the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla granted Noah Homes $2,500 for energy saving appliances. Noah Homes is a nonprofit in Spring Valley that provides free housing and care to 70 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Noah Homes’ vision as a self-sustaining and recognized model of care includes solar panels that are already in the works and other environmentally friendly cost-saving measures. In addition to energy saving appliances, Noah Homes is taking steps in sustainability including planting a vegetable garden, installing solar panels and switching to environmentally friendly hand dryers.
CPUC COMMISSIONER RESIGNS, WARNS AGAINST UTILITIES’ EFFORTS TO “STRANGLE” ROOFTOP SOLAR AND KILL NET METERING
By Miriam Raftery
January 17, 2014 (Sacramento) – California Public Utilities Commissioner Mark J. Ferron has resigned due to his battle with cancer, the CPUC announced. In his January 16 final report, Ferron voiced concerns over utility companies’ efforts to quash rooftop solar and pressures placed on commissioners from the utility industry.
Ferron played a key role in major CPUC decisions impacting San Diego County. He was among two commissioners who recommended denial of the Quail Brush Power Plant application, finding no need for the facility at that time, though the CPUC left the door open for the applicant to resubmit the proposal this year. Ferron also authored a CPUC decision to deny SDG&E’s request to charge ratepayers for liability costs of wildfires caused by SDG&E lines or equipment.
Community Solar Program Supports Creation of a Strong Solar Community: Learn More at a Free Solar Seminar Feb 15 at Jamul Restaurant and Bakery
January 17, 2014 (Jamul) – With the vision of creating a strong solar community in Jamul, local business Sullivan Solar Power announces its launch of the Jamul Solar Program. The company is offering cash incentives in addition to the federal tax credit to property owners within the unincorporated community of Jamul. The innovative program allows residents in Jamul to go solar for no upfront cost and receive substantial cash-back awards for their involvement.
“With many residents looking to declare energy independence from the utility and foreign fossil fuels, Jamul is the ideal community to adopt solar in the masses,” said Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of Sullivan Solar Power.
By Nadin Abbott
January 14, 2014 (Julian) --The Julian Planning Group voted unanimously Monday night to recommend denial of the Calico Ranch Solar Project, which proposed to cover 8.5 acres in Wynola with 4.,660 massive solar panels, requiring the destruction of numerous mature oak trees. The reasons given by the Planning Group were summarized as follows:
Photos by Van Collinsworth and Miriam Raftery
January 14, 2014 (San Diego) – State Route Highway 52 travels through Mission Gorge and Santee, offering motorists views of the San Diego River and Mission Trails Regional Park. Now the City of San Diego is applying for Scenic Highway designation from the state for the section of State Route 52 from Santo Road to Mast Boulevard, through Mission Trails Regional Park.
The measure passed unanimously. Van Collinsworth at Preserve Wild Santee urges the public to send letters of support for recognizing the scenic value of these resources. Letters should be received by February 28 and may be sent to:
By Sharon Penny
Duncan McFetridge is a poet, philosopher, wood carver, and a classical man who lives in a quiet cabin in the forest. McFetridge, who studied religion and Greek and Chinese philosophy, lives an ascetic life - he is someone who doesn't care about money the way most modern people do. He says that justice and truth are supreme.
Yet this environmentalist, who loves nature, animals and simplicity, has struck fear in many of San Diego's most powerful movers and shakers. He successfully took on the building industry years ago to prevent development in his mountain community of Descanso, managing to have the Forest Conservation Initiative implemented by the County of San Diego. It is considered one of the most important environmental initiatives in the County; it has protected critical areas within the Cleveland National Forest.
Rally at Environmental Protection Agency hearing shows no need for SDG&E’s dirty power plant
January 8, 2014 (Otay)--On December 17, local community organizations and residents from around the county rallied to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deny a permit for SDG&E’s proposed fossil fuel power plant, Pio Pico, in San Diego. The hearing ironically falls on the 50th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, a federal law requiring the EPA to develop and enforce regulations that protect citizens from breathing hazardous and harmful air.
January 8, 2014 (La Mesa) – In order to create a cleaner environment for our community, the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce is hosting a free electronic waste (e-waste) recycling collection event on Saturday, January 11 and Sunday, January 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will be held in the parking lot of Grossmont Center between Chuze Fitness and Fuddruckers, 5500 Grossmont Center Drive in La Mesa.
The event is a free service to everyone to properly dispose of your old TV's, computers, printers, and other approved items, and at the same time, help reduce improper and illegal dumping in our city and landfills.
MASSIVE SOITEC SOLAR PROJECTS PROPOSED IN BACKCOUNTRY AT BOULEVARD; EIR RELEASED BY SAN DIEGO COUNTY
Public Comments Due by February 17
By Sharon Penny
January 5, 2014 (Boulevard)--On Thursday, January 2, the County of San Diego released an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on massive solar projects proposed in East County by Soitec Solar (http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/pds/ceqa/Soitec-Solar-EIR.html).
At the Boulevard Planning Group meeting, County employees made a brief presentation of the EIR. The small community room was packed with over two dozen residents of Boulevard, all expressing major concerns with the proposed projects. Robert Hingtgen and Mindy Fogg from the County’s Planning and Development Services discussed Soitec’s four proposed projects, which combined would encompass a total of 1,490 acres in Boulevard, with almost 7,500 solar trackers, each measuring 30 feet tall by 48 feet wide.
January 5, 2014 (Santee)--This is a story made in the shade! Takeda California, a pharmaceutical company, plans to plant 2,000 trees along a one-mile-stretch of the San Diego River in Santee’s new Walker Preserve on January 20. That’s 20 times more trees than the drug discovery company used in paper during the entire last year.
The trees will be planted by Takeda’s employees, family members and friends. The effort will benefit the San Diego River Park Foundation and Walker Preserve by introducing native Coast Live Oak, Scrub Oak, Englemann Oak, Laurel Sumac, Cottonwood, Sycamore, Lemonade Berry and Elderberry to lands previously used for mining operations.
San Diego and Imperial County Eagles Are at Risk
January 5, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) -- In December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released its final decision to weaken a key rule that protects Bald and Golden Eagles, in order to more quickly develop renewable energy.
The Protect Our Communities Foundation (POC), a nonprofit community organization in San Diego’s East County, opposes this rule change stating it would harm eagles, has not been adequately studied, and violates federal law. Two local wind projects would be affected by the change.
“Eagles symbolize America’s national heritage and deserve more protection, not less. This rule change will make it harder to protect the remaining eagles that San Diegans love,” said Donna Tisdale, POC’s Secretary.
January 2, 2014 (McCain Valley) -- While hiking in McCain Valley north of Sacatone Road on New Year's Day, Laurie Baker and her husband encountered these two Peninsular Bighorn rams.
"What a pleasant surprise!" Baker exclaimed of her New Year's discovery -- an important sighting, since the draft environmental impact statement for Iberdrola Renewables' planned Tule Wind project in McCain Valley concludes that wind turbines aren "located outside of critical habitat areas and will not have any detrimental impacts on sheep."
Finding proof of the endangered animals doesn't assure their protection, however. When Pattern Energy's Ocotillo Express Wind Facility was approved, the project's environmental report similarly concluded that the site was not bighorn habitat. When photos of a herd of bighorn on the project site were sent to then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, he issued take permits allowing up to 10 bighorn ewes and lambs to be killed, allowing the project to proceed at the expense of this critically endangered species which is at risk of extinction, according to the Bighorn Institute.
Decision puts families and eagles at risk, Protect Our Communities warns
Wind-turbine fire on Campo Reservation December 16, 2013 near site of wind farm lease approved by BIA in the same week that this blaze threatened nearby homes.
December 31, 2013 –On December 26, local residents learned that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has signed a Record of Decision approving a lease for Phase II of Iberdrola’s controversial Tule Wind Project (also known as the Reduced Ridgeline Project) in San Diego County. The Record of Decision has not been published in the Federal Register so is not available for the public to review even though the BIA has already issued a press release.
“The BIA’s decision is reckless and shows outrageous disregard for the high fire risk we all face in San Diego County,” said Donna Tisdale, POC’s Secretary. “The fire district that Iberdrola contracted has no air tankers or helicopters of its own, but must hope and pray that mutual aid fire agencies can spare them. And Iberdrola’s Tule Wind Fire Protection Plan shows that it plans to use the people of San Diego County as guinea pigs by relying on an experimental fire suppression technology instead of something already proven to work.”
By Miriam Raftery
December 30, 2013 (Ramona)--After 20 years, Hawk Watch, a popular wildlife educational program in Ramona featuring hawks, owls and eagles, has been cancelled for 2014 . Visitors can still go birdwatching on their own at the Ramona Grasslands Preserve, but there will be no organized presentations or up-close looks at captive birds of prey.
Wildlife Research Institute, which ran the program, announced the cancellation on its website with no explanation. But the decision likely stems from trouble raising funds for the nonprofit after news broke that its founder, David Bittner, was sentenced in federal court in August after pleading guilty to unlawful taking a Golden Eagle without a permit and failing to file any data reports for a four-year period on birds that he had banded.
December 19, 2013 (San Diego) – San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and the U.S. Forest Service have partnered to preserve and protect 448 acres between El Cajon Mountain and the El Capitan Reservoir. Known as Oak Ridge Ranch, the property is now National Forest system land donated by SDG&E.
The partnership at Oak Ridge Ranch protects native Engelmann oak trees that only grow naturally in a narrow band that stretches along the mountain foothills of Southern California and Baja California, Mexico. The Engelmann oak is an indicator species, which means that when this beautiful evergreen oak thrives, so too does the surrounding forest ecosystem.
December 18, 2013 (California) -- Voters who live in California's High Desert have a strong connection to public lands and see the benefits they provide for clean water, recreation and wildlife. That's according to a poll that found three-quarters of local residents have visited public lands in the last year.
Pollster Lori Weigel, Public Opinion Strategies, said voters value these lands for a number of reasons.
Part II in our "Wind Fire" series
By Miriam Raftery
December 17, 2013 (Campo) – Yesterday’s explosion and brush fire sparked by a Gamesa wind turbine owned by Infigen at the Kumeyaay Wind facility in Campo, California has ignited new questions about the safety of wind turbines in this fire-prone region, where several of the worst wildfires in California history have previously scorched hundreds of thousands of acres.
In June, Infigen settled a lawsuit with Gamesa stemming from an earlier catastrophe at the same wind facility in 2009, when an explosive blast resulted in replacement of all 75 wind turbines, as ECM reported in an exclusive report. But now Boulevard Planning Group Chair Donna Tisdale reveals, “The 75 turbine blades from the 2009 catastrophic failure that you covered are still laying on the ground at the wind farm and are highly flammable.”
By Miriam Raftery and Nadin Abbott
Photos by Jim Pelley, Michael Kurtz, Jim Colby, J. Rummler
December 16, 2013 (Campo) – A wind turbine on a ridge overlooking the Golden Acorn Casino exploded today, sparking several spot fires in surrounding brush that collectively charred about a half an acre.
David Elliott, a Manzanita tribal member, lives about quarter of a mile from the wind facility on the neighboring Campo reservation. At first, he mistook the fire sounds for gusty wind. Then he walked outside and saw the turbine burning. “The turbine did start several spot fires,” he said. “If the wind had been coming from the northwest or west then my home, one of the closets homes to the turbines, would have definitely been in danger because we have brush on this side of the turbines and we would have had a major fire.” Hear audio of his interview with ECM: http://kiwi6.com/file/bk3qywd787
SAN DIEGO UNIFIED, COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION, AND SOLAR CONTRACTOR TEAM UP TO TRAIN "SOLAR CHAMPIONS"
December 4, 2013 (San Diego) – -Nearly 30 San Diego Unified School District teachers are becoming "Solar Champions." Earlier this week, the school district hosted a workshop for those teachers to help them incorporate the solar energy/technology they now have at their schools into their curriculum.
Main Street Power is a solar contractor that recently completed the installation of roof-top solar systems at 29 of the district's schools. As part of its contract with the district, Main Street Power is providing the teachers with training and classroom solar car kits, as well as materials on solar energy/technology that are aligned with the districts' science curriculum. The company is also giving each school a computer that will serve as an "energy portal."
By Miriam Raftery
December 4, 2013 (Boulevard) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed its examination of a raptor euthanized after it was struck by a semi- truck in Boulevard on November 27.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed the species of bird as a red-tailed hawk, said Jane Hendron, Public Affairs Division Chief with the USFWS in Carlsbad.
CPUC TO HOLD HEARING IN ALPINE FEB. 5 ON NEW "STEALTH" SDG&E POWER LINE PROJECT PROPOSED IN BACKCOUNTRY
NOTE: CORRECTED DATE
View map of all energy projects in our region to see cumulative impacts and disparate impact on rural areas
Judge to Decide Whether to Have Hearings on Nearly Half Billion Dollar SDG&E Power Line Project That Opponents Say Threatens Back Country Communities
January 31, 2014 (Alpine)--The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will hold a prehearing conference at 1:30 p.m. February 5 in the Oak Room of the Alpine Community Center, 1830 Alpine Blvd. in Alpine regarding proposed SDG&E’s Master Special Use Permit project that wouldl impact communities throughout the San Diego backcountry from Pauma Valley to Potrero (north to south) and from Ramona to Boulevard (west to east). The project is so large that SDG&E estimates construction will take about five years.
Administrative Law Judge Jean Vieth will determine if there will be full evidentiary hearings for this project or if this prehearing conference will be the only time the issues are heard. "In its application, SDG&E asked the CPUC for permission to construct this $418.5 million project without any hearings at all—their usual method of operation,"Backcountry Against Dumps, a nonprofit community organization, states in a press release.
Donna Tisdale, President of Backcountry against Dumps and Chair of the Boulevard Planning Group, voiced these concerns. “SDG&E’s project is being sold solely as fire-hardening but it appears to be an undisclosed stealth increase in carrying capacity that may directly or indirectly support numerous commercial solar projects that are already proposed along or near the route in Boulevard, Pine Valley, Descanso, Potrero, Julian, Ramona, and perhaps elsewhere that we are not yet aware of. Solar generation projects represent potential new fire ignition sources that cannot be de-energized during red flag wind events or other emergencies.”
Shocking toll from solar facility pales, however, compared to estimated 100,000 bird deaths from wind turbines in CA
By Miriam Raftery
November 25, 2013 (California) – Desert solar projects have been touted as environmentally friendly. But now disturbing evidence has emerged that these projects are incinerating birds flying overhead.Two months ago, 34 birds were found dead or injured at Ivanpah Solar (photo, left, by Tom Budlong) owned by BrightSource Energy in San Bernardino County, California. Almost half had singed feathers and some had nothing left but spines where feathers melted from reflected beams of sunlight, according to a report in The Desert Sun.
The toll was even worse in October, when 52 dead birds were found at the site, 17 with scorched feathers (see photo, below right) Ivanpah, still in testing phase, is the world's largest solar facility -- but it's not the only one frying birds. Another 19 birds were found dead at another project, Desert Sunlight, also in California. More such facilities are planned, incdluing Palen’s proposed project in the Coachella Valley that would be located near two wildlife refuges where migrating birds stop in the Pacific Flyway.
Reprinted with permission from San Diego Loves Green
By Roy L. Hales
November 27, 2013 – In the wake of a widening misinformation scandal in Arizona, the Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) is calling on utility trade organization Edison Electric Institute (EEI), “… to disavow APS’ underhanded behavior and state whether or not they have also used dark money.”
By Miriam Raftery
November 24, 2013 (Ocotilo) – ECM photographer Parke Ewing photographed a troubling series of images on November 22 showing a large raptor winging its way through Pattern Energy's Ocotillo Express Wind Facility, dangerously close to the blades.
The next day, photographer Jim Pelley found a dead raptor lying on the ground at the site, one leg sliced off, apparently a victim of the turbines. It is unclear whether it is the same raptor photographed on the wing by Ewing.
A news article just published in Rewire Magazine that the new, large wind turbines such as those at Ocotillo are likely responsible for 100,000 bird deaths a year in California. Moreover, California is the deadliest state in the nation when it comes to bird deaths from wind projects, including many that are protected under the Migratory Species Treaty or the Endangered Species Act.
By Miriam Raftery
November 22, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – For years, wind developers operated with impunity, not held responsible for harm to people, wildlife or communities. But a trio of landmark court rulings this month indicate a shift, with judges holding wind developers liable for the first time for impacts on human health, protected birds, and rural character.
In a landmark ruling today, a judge in Falmouth, Massachusetts ordered the town's three wind turbines shut off at night, on Sundays and on holidays to protect the health of residents. ‘‘This is believed to be the first time that a court in the U.S. has ruled that there is sufficient evidence that wind turbines near residential areas are a health hazard to families living nearby,’’ said Virginia Irvine, president of Wind Wise Massachusetts.. The judge ruled that operation of the turbines nonstop put residents at risk of ‘‘irreparable physical and psychological harm.” Neighbors had complained of negative health impacts since the turbines were built.
Also this week, in the first-ever criminal prosecution of a wind company for illegal bird kills under the Migratory Treat Act, Duke Energy Reneawbles Inc. pled guilty and was ordered to pay a million dollars. Duke's wind projects in Wyoming slaughtered 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds. See Department of Justice release on the fine.
By Miriam Raftery
November 22, 2013 (La Mesa) – Several directors of the Helix Water Board indicated a willingness to vote to close Lake Jennings permanently or at least remove camping facilities and end fish stocking to save funds. But in the end, after public testimony and a proposal by director Joel Scalzitti, the board unanimously voted to form a committee to see if an alternative can be found.
Carlos Lugo, General Manager, led off the hearing earlier this month by stating that a September workshop on the issue did not have a high attendance. The lake has been a financial drain on the district and a consultant’s analysis predicted that even investing in major upgrades would not result in a profit.
Update: View 10 News interviews on this issue
Interim Mayor Todd Gloria ignores objections over negative impacts including fish kills, fire danger
By Miriam Raftery
November 17, 2013 (Lake Morena) – Unless the County agrees to fork over $1.7 million, San Diego’s interim Mayor Todd Gloria has announced his approval of plans for the City of San Diego to drain down Lake Morena to 2,967 feet and transfer the water to Barrett and Otay Lakes. His decision ignores warnings from Supervisor Dianne Jacob and a report by County Parks and Recreation staff, which warns that such action could have “negative impacts on public safety, the environment, recreation and the local economy.”
State orders habitat restoration; college urges bikers to organize and seek new site
November 18, 2013 (Rancho San Diego) -- Cuyamaca College has begun to enforce restrictions on use of a nature preserve at the Rancho San Diego campus that has been a popular – but illegal – spot for young bike riders.
The area off Fury Road in Rancho San Diego has long been used by bikers who created dirt mounds that enabled them to perform their daredevil tricks. The college is closing the area, part of a sensitive wildlife habitat, while it removes the bumps and replants vegetation to restore the area to its natural state.
November 18, 2013 (Washington D.C.) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA has awarded nearly $10 million to a consortium of academic, industry and government organizations led by Colorado State University (CSU) and their partners to research using insect-killed trees in the Rockies as a sustainable feedstock for bioenergy.
The award, provided under the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), is part of USDA's effort to develop modern solutions for climate challenges in agriculture and natural resource management. AFRI is provided under the Farm Bill, and Secretary Vilsack highlighted the need for passage of a comprehensive, long-term Food, Farm and Jobs Bill to continue groundbreaking agricultural research across the nation.