Massive release of emails between CPUC and utilities also ordered by administrative law judge
By Miriam Raftery
January 18, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – Taking the helm of the scandal-ridden California Public Utilities Commission, new president Michael Picker announced reforms aimed at ending back-door access by utilities to state regulators and improving transparency to the public.
January 17, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)--NASA's Goddard Institute For Space Studies has reduced global temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their "GISS Analysis" uses satellite measurements of night lighting to locate population centers. GISS uses this population map to statistically remove the artificial warming of cities, known as the "Urban Heat Island Effect," or UHI, from the NOAA's ground station data. In the opinion of this author, that correction makes the NASA GISS's data the most reliable estimate of the near surface temperature of our planet. Please see:
January 17, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) announced last week that the new East County (ECO) Substation project has been energized and is now operating as an integral part of SDG&E’s electric transmission system.
January 17, 2015 (Ocotillo) –A wind turbine at the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility burst into flames on January 15th. East County Magazine photographer Jim Pelley, an Ocotillo resident, caught the incident on video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGYvHM5KlJs&feature=youtu.be. The Siemens 2.3-108 turbine was a 2.3 megawatt model with 108 meter blades. The turbine (#110) is located along a mining road.
“There were no injuries,” Jeff Grappone from Siemens told ECM. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire, he stated in an e-mail. The equipment impacted (six turbines on one circuit) has been de-energized, a safe perimeter established and the tower is being monitored continuously, he indicated.
December 31, 2014 (San Diego)—Jack Shu, president of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF), sat down for an in-depth interview with East County Magazine on KNSJ radio. CNFF and other environmental groups filed a lawsuit challenging the regional transportation plan proposed by the San Diego Association of Government (SANDAG) . California Attorney General Kamala Harris joined the suit in support of environmentalist.
CNFF contends that instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as state law requires, SANDAG’s plan will increase them by 700 percent (see chart).
San Diegans rely 95% on automobiles for transportation and only 3% on transit, yet SANDAG’s plan calls for more freeways instead of expanding transit in the near future. San Diego also has the seventh worth ozone pollution in the nation as well as serious asthma issues, CNFF argues, yet SANDAG failed to provide a health impact analysis in its plan.
An appellate court and trial court agreed with plaintiffs that SANDAG failed to adequately address air pollution and climate change concerns, yet SANDAG voted 20 to 1 to appeal to the California Supreme Court.
December 31, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--Monarch butterflies may warrant protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states. Monarch populations have dropped up to 90 percent in the last 20 years due to loss of milkweed plants that the butterflies need to lay their eggs and nourish caterpillars that emerge from cocoons.
December 29, 2014 (San Diego)—Pope Francis, who has voiced concerns over climate change impacts, is set to issue an edict calling on 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide to take action on climate change—and a San Diego scientist may have played a role in influencing the Pope to take action.
December 26, 2014 (San Diego)--To incentivize projects that promote smart growth, as well as increase walking, biking, and transit usage, SANDAG is calling on local jurisdictions to submit applications for $15 million in competitive grants available under its TransNet Smart Growth Incentive Program (SGIP) and TransNet Active Transportation Grant Program (ATGP).
Photo: Michael Picker during a visit to the University of San Diego
December 25, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Following the resignation of disgraced California Public Utilities President Michael Peevey, Governor Jerry Brown has appointed his former renewable energy advisor, Michael Picker, to head up the CPUC as president of the board. Picker also served in the same capacity for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration.
Despite company’s woes, county releases EIR on Soitec’s proposed Boulevard projects. A hearing is set for January 16, with the deadline for public comment January 14.
By Miriam Raftery
December 22, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) -- The future for Soitec Solar is far from bright. The company’s stock shares plummeted 57 percent on Monday, reaching an all-time low. The plunge led Reuters to advise investors to avoid Soitec “like poison.”
The free-fall occurred after the company announced that the main project in its solar division has been cancelled and that the company will be scaling down its San Diego facility. Tenaska Solar Ventures cancelled its deal to use Soitec’s concentrated photovoltaic panels at a facility in Imperial County. In addition, San Diego Gas & Electric spokeswoman Jennifer Ramp says that the utility “does not have any contracts with Soitec.” That statement conflicts with claims previously made by Soitec, Voice of San Diego reports in an article titled “The Darling of San Diego Solar Manufacturing Is on Its Death Bed.”
Despite this precipitous news, ironically the County of San Diego released the final environmental impact report (EIR) on Soitec’s four proposed industrial-scale solar projects in Boulevard. A hearing on the projects are set for January 16th, which public comments due by January 14th at 4 p.m. , according to Mindy Fogg, planning manager for the County.
December 19, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Pacificorp pled guilty this week in U.S. District Court in Wyoming to violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) in connection with the deaths of protected birds, including golden eagles, at two of the company’s wind projects in Wyoming.
December 17, 2014 (Washington D.C.) – A bill to extend the wind production tax credit and investment tax credit, along with other tax incentives for wind energy developers, has passed both houses of Congress and is now on President Barack Obama’s desk.
Photo: Hawk at Ocotillo wind farm; photo by Jim Pelley
By Miriam Raftery
December 16, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – A lawsuit filed by Pacificorp, a wind energy corporation, seeks an injunction to halt the Associated Press from obtaining reports filed by the company with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service documenting deaths of eagles and other protected bird species at its wind energy facilities. Pacificorp, which is owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, claims disclosure would cause “irreparable harm” to the company.
December 9, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--Corporations behind the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility and the failed Quail Brush gas-fired power plant in San Diego are being sued in federal court amid revelations of bribery allegations and a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
December 9, 2014 (Washington D.C.)--Installation of solar photovoltaic energy in the United States grew 41 percent last year – with 1,354 megawatts added last year, the Solar Energy Industries Association reports. The U.S. now has a whopping 16.1 gigawatts of photovoltaic, plus another 1.4 gigawatts of concentrating solar power capacity.
December 7, 2014 (San Diego)—By a 20 to 1 vote, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has voted to appeal a ruling on its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan to the California Supreme Court. Oceanside Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery cast the lone vote against filing the appeal.
California Gnatcatcher, Photo via Wikimedia Commons
East County News Service
December 4, 2014 (San Diego)—San Diego County Supervisors voted this week to approve purchase of 345 acres of open land to extend trail systems and to protect habitat for the endangered California gnatcatcher.
“Without significant input from the public, from you, this juggernaut will proceed relentlessly, sacrificing millions of acres of desert habitat, wasting precious groundwater, degrading air quality, and “taking” endangered species and other wildlife.”—David Garmon, Borrego Springs, petition author
By Miriam Raftery
November 28, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Environmentalists have launched a petition at Moveon.org asking the public to sign in opposition to the Desert Renewable Energy Plan, which would open up millions of acres of California deserts to industrial-scale wind and solar projects. Instead, environmental leaders want the California Energy Commission to do an analysis of rooftop solar as an alternative.
The petition states: “More renewable energy is available from rooftop solar in San Diego and Los Angeles Counties than will be derived from the siting of utility-scale generating facilities on 2 million acres of desert habitat called for in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. The unintended consequences of utility-scale facilities in the desert are becoming known and are unacceptable--dust storms in Lancaster, midair incineration of birds at Ivanpah, depletion of scarce groundwater in Borrego Springs.”
November 26, 2014 (San Diego)--It has been nine months since California approved a $10 million reserve fund, to reimburse mortgage holders if homeowners with Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) default. (The residential program has been moving in slow motion since 2010, when, concerned about the priority PACE loans had over mortgages, the Federal Housing Finance Agency ordered the government-sponsored enterprises to not underwrite mortgages for homes with PACE loans.)
November 25, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – When a multi-ton blade fell off a wind turbine at Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility, the company claimed such accidents are rare. Now another Pattern Energy wind project has hurled off dangerous debris. This time, a turbine in Canada hurled off an 18-inch chunk of serrated blade, which flew 400 feet before landing in a field, the Chatham Voice reported.
November 26, 2014 (San Diego)--The holiday season is full of celebrations, comfort food and gifts. Along with the holiday spirit comes increased waste. Household waste increases by more than 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Knowing how to reduce waste can save money and conserve natural resources and landfill space.
A proposed industrial solar farm in Lakeside’s scenic El Monte Valley is stirring up controversy. Property owner David Pressman/OCI Solar Lakeside has proposed to build a 40-acre solar photovoltaic project with approximately 8,500 solar panels on El Monte Road. OCI is a Korean company with holdings in the U.S.
A hearing on the plan is set for December 3rd at 6:30 p.m. before the Lakeside Community Planning Group at the Lakeside Community Center.
“Everyone I have talked to too is against it for many reasons.” says photographer Billy Ortiz. “My reason is El Monte Valley is and should always be a scenic corridor, period.” He posted photos of the proposed site and drew some strong responses.
November 25, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – California’s Legislature recently passed a bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown to ban plastic grocery bags starting next year. But now out-of-state plastic manufacturing companies are trying to block that ban with a ballot initiative.
November 24, 2014 (San Diego)—California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal has confirmed that the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) broke state law with a long-range transportation plan for our region that failed to take steps to reduce greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change.
“It's a horror beyond words; something you have to live to understand. Something must be done to stop the noise.” – Ocotillo resident Parke Ewing
November 14, 2014 (Ocotillo) – Residents in Ocotillo say that during windy conditions in early November, noise from wind turbines is making their lives unbearable.
Jim Pelley captured the loud noise on videotape, juxtaposed with footage of Pattern Energy’s Glenn Hodges selling the project to supervisors in Imperial Valley by claiming that noise would not be an issue due to setbacks. “The project was sold on the understanding to be five miles from the community of Ocotillo,” Pelley wrote on a Youtube post. “We have turbines as close as 1/2 mile, we are now forced to live with the horrible noise of 112 turbines when the wind blows.”
His neighbor, Parke Ewing, says his complaints to Imperial County and Bureau of Land Management officials, as well as Pattern Energy, have fallen on deaf ears, with no meaningful responses.
November 14, 2014 (Sacramento)--In response to public requests, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), California Energy Commission (CEC) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will extend the public comment period for the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) for 45 days. The comment period, originally scheduled to close on January 9, 2015, will be extended through February 23, 2015.
Drought got you down? Need garden tips, conservation insights and ideas for drought-resistant plants to make your fall landscape more beautiful with less water?
Get help at Ask the Experts, an event set for Saturday, November 15 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon. Presentations and exhibits include a home compost workshop, toss the turf class, life after lawns, horticultural displays, how to hire a landscape contractor and save money, ask the designers, personalized landscape design consultations, free garden tours, and shopping for water-saving plants.