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Environmentalists Allege San Benito County Made Errors in Approving Solar Farm Project

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors approved a massive solar farm project last year, but a battle has been brewing over its construction between the investors who want to make it happen and environmentalists who want to preserve local wildlife. The battle is of course legal in nature and landed in court this week as both sides made their case before a judge. The project is a 399-megawatt solar farm that is expected to cost nearly $2 billion and would involve 4 million solar panels on 3,200 acres. While the environmental groups are arguing that they support solar power, they contend the farm’s proposed location is destructive to the habitat and character of the area. To fuel their arsenal, attorneys for the environmental groups are picking their way through a 2,100-page environmental impact report that cost $800,000 to produce. According to the environmentalists’ attorney, the county made three key mistakes when it came to approving the project. One, it was a violation of the Williamson Act since such contracts with farmers in the area would have to be canceled early. Mercury points out the other two alleged errors:

“[The county] failed to fully protect several endangered species on the site, such as the blunt-nosed leopard lizard, the San Joaquin kit fox and the giant kangaroo rat. Second, she said, the county violated state law by not thoroughly considering alternatives to the project in its environmental study, such as a 30,000-acre landscape of fallow farmland 50 miles away in Kings and Fresno counties. That property, in the Westlands Water District, is damaged by selenium that leached from the soil from years of irrigation but still would be suitable for the photovoltaic panels.”

The judge is expected to make a decision on the project in the fall. Lawsuits from environmental groups over large solar farms have become more prevalent as developers try to move forward plans that will tackle global warming concerns.

Environmentalists Allege San Benito County Made Errors in Approving Solar Farm Project

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors approved a massive solar farm project last year, but a battle has been brewing over its construction between the investors who want to make it happen and environmentalists who want to preserve local wildlife. The battle is of course legal in nature and landed in court this week as both sides made their case before a judge. The project is a 399-megawatt solar farm that is expected to cost nearly $2 billion and would involve 4 million solar panels on 3,200 acres. While the environmental groups are arguing that they support solar power, they contend the farm’s proposed location is destructive to the habitat and character of the area. To fuel their arsenal, attorneys for the environmental groups are picking their way through a 2,100-page environmental impact report that cost $800,000 to produce. According to the environmentalists’ attorney, the county made three key mistakes when it came to approving the project. One, it was a violation of the Williamson Act since such contracts with farmers in the area would have to be canceled early. Mercury points out the other two alleged errors:

“[The county] failed to fully protect several endangered species on the site, such as the blunt-nosed leopard lizard, the San Joaquin kit fox and the giant kangaroo rat. Second, she said, the county violated state law by not thoroughly considering alternatives to the project in its environmental study, such as a 30,000-acre landscape of fallow farmland 50 miles away in Kings and Fresno counties. That property, in the Westlands Water District, is damaged by selenium that leached from the soil from years of irrigation but still would be suitable for the photovoltaic panels.”

The judge is expected to make a decision on the project in the fall. Lawsuits from environmental groups over large solar farms have become more prevalent as developers try to move forward plans that will tackle global warming concerns.

Riverside Supervisors Consider Public Records Fee and a Levy on Solar Developers

If you’re in Riverside County and you want copies of public records, then you might have to break open your piggy bank, as Supervisors are considering a fee of $50 an hour for fulfilling all such retrieval requests. The motivation for the proposal is to help the county recover the costs of duplication, including the amount of time that many requests involve, which takes county workers away from other duties. But should access to public records be contingent upon a fee? Open government advocates would likely disagree and opponents may argue that the potential ordinance is a violation of state public records law. Under the terms of the proposal, the first hour spent on a public records request would be free. Advocates for greater transparency fear that public inspection of public documents will be less likely if a fee is in place. The Press Enterprise reports that Terry Francke, general counsel of Californians Aware, an open-government advocacy group, commented the following: “If you have no idea what the access is going to cost, then I think you are going to be hesitant to even make a request. If the county does approve this, we would think seriously about filing suit challenging it.”

If a resident faces financial hardship, then under the ordinance they would be able to have the fee waived, but in the end, the citizen would be forced to jump through hoops. Supervisors are scheduled to discuss the proposal at their meeting on Tuesday. Supporters argue that the county’s tight budgetary times make the ordinance necessary. Info on the order initiating the ordinance can be seen here.

And in other Riverside-related news, Supervisors are also considering a solar development fee. The county currently has the largest solar energy plants in the state, but in light of the effect that massive plants can have on the county and development, officials are weighing a 2% levy on solar developers’ annual revenue. Riverside has proven to be an attractive location for solar energy plants, and critics of the fee argue that it will slow down renewable energy in the region. Riverside County Supervisor John J. Benoit supports the fee and commented, “We're just saying that when we're left with all the impacts of development, give us a little something back for the imposition on our county.”

Riverside Supervisors Consider Public Records Fee and a Levy on Solar Developers

If you’re in Riverside County and you want copies of public records, then you might have to break open your piggy bank, as Supervisors are considering a fee of $50 an hour for fulfilling all such retrieval requests. The motivation for the proposal is to help the county recover the costs of duplication, including the amount of time that many requests involve, which takes county workers away from other duties. But should access to public records be contingent upon a fee? Open government advocates would likely disagree and opponents may argue that the potential ordinance is a violation of state public records law. Under the terms of the proposal, the first hour spent on a public records request would be free. Advocates for greater transparency fear that public inspection of public documents will be less likely if a fee is in place. The Press Enterprise reports that Terry Francke, general counsel of Californians Aware, an open-government advocacy group, commented the following: “If you have no idea what the access is going to cost, then I think you are going to be hesitant to even make a request. If the county does approve this, we would think seriously about filing suit challenging it.”

If a resident faces financial hardship, then under the ordinance they would be able to have the fee waived, but in the end, the citizen would be forced to jump through hoops. Supervisors are scheduled to discuss the proposal at their meeting on Tuesday. Supporters argue that the county’s tight budgetary times make the ordinance necessary. Info on the order initiating the ordinance can be seen here.

And in other Riverside-related news, Supervisors are also considering a solar development fee. The county currently has the largest solar energy plants in the state, but in light of the effect that massive plants can have on the county and development, officials are weighing a 2% levy on solar developers’ annual revenue. Riverside has proven to be an attractive location for solar energy plants, and critics of the fee argue that it will slow down renewable energy in the region. Riverside County Supervisor John J. Benoit supports the fee and commented, “We're just saying that when we're left with all the impacts of development, give us a little something back for the imposition on our county.”

Tribe and Environmentalists Sue San Diego County Over Landfill Proposal; Call Area Sacred

San Diego County's environmental agency has been sued over contentious plans to build a landfill in the rural, northern part of the county. The proposed Gregory Canyon landfill has motivated an adamant group of opponents to fight the project to the death---day by day. But the private developers of the landfill show no signs of stopping either, as they have been trying to get the project completed for almost two decades. So far, $60 million has already been spent on the plans by Gregory Canyon Ltd. The lawsuit was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, RiverWatch and the Pala Band of Mission Indians on the grounds that various state laws have been violated by the Department of Environmental Health. The tribe considers areas near the landfill sacred, such as Gregory Mountain and Medicine Rock. The AP reports that Robert Smith, tribal chairman, commented “We must not allow these precious and irreplaceable sacred sites to be desecrated by the Gregory Canyon garbage dump.”

The lawsuit states the following:

“(We) oppose the construction and operation of the proposed landfill for numerous reasons, including that it would forever threaten the adjacent San Luis Rey River and the groundwater resources along the river that supply drinking water to thousands of residents of San Diego County. […] The proposed landfill also would negatively impact air quality, endangered species, traffic an traffic safety ...(would) create unacceptable levels of noise, and desecrate Gregory Mountain and Medicine Rock, two sites considered sacred by the Pala Band...”

Jim Simmons, Gregory Canyon Landfill Project Manager, called the lawsuit, which is the latest trying to stop the landfill, “meritless” and that “This landfill design incorporates the most innovative technology available that both respects and protects its surroundings.” The county recently approved a major permit for the construction of the landfill, a decision that prompted the new lawsuit.

Tribe and Environmentalists Sue San Diego County Over Landfill Proposal; Call Area Sacred

San Diego County's environmental agency has been sued over contentious plans to build a landfill in the rural, northern part of the county. The proposed Gregory Canyon landfill has motivated an adamant group of opponents to fight the project to the death---day by day. But the private developers of the landfill show no signs of stopping either, as they have been trying to get the project completed for almost two decades. So far, $60 million has already been spent on the plans by Gregory Canyon Ltd. The lawsuit was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, RiverWatch and the Pala Band of Mission Indians on the grounds that various state laws have been violated by the Department of Environmental Health. The tribe considers areas near the landfill sacred, such as Gregory Mountain and Medicine Rock. The AP reports that Robert Smith, tribal chairman, commented “We must not allow these precious and irreplaceable sacred sites to be desecrated by the Gregory Canyon garbage dump.”

The lawsuit states the following:

“(We) oppose the construction and operation of the proposed landfill for numerous reasons, including that it would forever threaten the adjacent San Luis Rey River and the groundwater resources along the river that supply drinking water to thousands of residents of San Diego County. […] The proposed landfill also would negatively impact air quality, endangered species, traffic an traffic safety ...(would) create unacceptable levels of noise, and desecrate Gregory Mountain and Medicine Rock, two sites considered sacred by the Pala Band...”

Jim Simmons, Gregory Canyon Landfill Project Manager, called the lawsuit, which is the latest trying to stop the landfill, “meritless” and that “This landfill design incorporates the most innovative technology available that both respects and protects its surroundings.” The county recently approved a major permit for the construction of the landfill, a decision that prompted the new lawsuit.

Beach Bummers: Annual Water Quality Report Card; 8 in LA County Receive F Grade

Beach
The summer months are approaching, so it’s as good a time as any to know which of the state’s beaches score well for water quality. The non-profit Heal the Bay has released its annual Beach Report Card and 21 percent of California beaches scored perfect A-plus grades. Overall, most state beaches had good to excellent water quality scores, with 400 of 445 locations receiving an A or B grade during the summer dry time period. However, there is great disparity between dry and wet weather water quality, which Heal the Bay argues is the result of insufficient efforts to reduce storm water runoff pollution. When it comes to those beaches that ranked the worst, 4 out of 10 were in Los Angeles County. Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, commented that “Despite numerous individual beach success stories, this year demonstrated that there hasn’t been progress reducing major beach pollution sources like the Los Angeles River, Malibu Creek and Topanga Creek.” Long Beach in particular saw its grads drop by 40% after three years of improvement.

Overall, beaches in San Diego, Orange and Ventura counties ranked very well, and an "A" grade was given to 90 percent of Bay Area oceanside beaches for the absence of potentially harmful bacteria.

Top 10 beaches with the poorest water quality statewide
1. Cowell Beach -- at the wharf (Santa Cruz County)
2. Avalon Harbor Beach on Catalina Island (L.A. County)
3. Cabrillo Beach harborside (Los Angeles County)
4. Topanga State Beach at creek mouth (L.A. County)
5. Poche Beach (Orange County)
6. North Beach/Doheny (Orange County)
7. Arroyo Burro Beach (Santa Barbara County)
8. Baker Beach at Lobos Creek (San Francisco County)
9. Colorado Lagoon (Los Angeles County)
10. Capitola Beach -- west of the jetty (Santa Cruz County)

You can read the full report card here.

Beach Bummers: Annual Water Quality Report Card; 8 in LA County Receive F Grade

Beach
The summer months are approaching, so it’s as good a time as any to know which of the state’s beaches score well for water quality. The non-profit Heal the Bay has released its annual Beach Report Card and 21 percent of California beaches scored perfect A-plus grades. Overall, most state beaches had good to excellent water quality scores, with 400 of 445 locations receiving an A or B grade during the summer dry time period. However, there is great disparity between dry and wet weather water quality, which Heal the Bay argues is the result of insufficient efforts to reduce storm water runoff pollution. When it comes to those beaches that ranked the worst, 4 out of 10 were in Los Angeles County. Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, commented that “Despite numerous individual beach success stories, this year demonstrated that there hasn’t been progress reducing major beach pollution sources like the Los Angeles River, Malibu Creek and Topanga Creek.” Long Beach in particular saw its grads drop by 40% after three years of improvement.

Overall, beaches in San Diego, Orange and Ventura counties ranked very well, and an "A" grade was given to 90 percent of Bay Area oceanside beaches for the absence of potentially harmful bacteria.

Top 10 beaches with the poorest water quality statewide
1. Cowell Beach -- at the wharf (Santa Cruz County)
2. Avalon Harbor Beach on Catalina Island (L.A. County)
3. Cabrillo Beach harborside (Los Angeles County)
4. Topanga State Beach at creek mouth (L.A. County)
5. Poche Beach (Orange County)
6. North Beach/Doheny (Orange County)
7. Arroyo Burro Beach (Santa Barbara County)
8. Baker Beach at Lobos Creek (San Francisco County)
9. Colorado Lagoon (Los Angeles County)
10. Capitola Beach -- west of the jetty (Santa Cruz County)

You can read the full report card here.

Breathe Easy? CAPCOA Releases Report on CA’s Progress Toward Clean Air

We recently relayed that the American Lung Association had released a report that graded each county in the state of California for its air quality. While the ALA noted that the Golden State experienced some improvement in its overall air quality, many counties were shown to rank poorly in ozone pollution. Notably, the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association has released a report of its own that provides some balance on the state of California’s air quality and the progress that has been made. The State’s 35 local air-quality agencies collaborated on the effort that shows there have been significant reductions in ozone pollution over the past 30 years and a reduction in the total number of unhealthy air quality days for the past decade as measured by the Air Quality Index. Commenting on the findings, CAPCOA President and Air Pollution Control Officer of the Placer County APCD Thomas J. Christofk stated that “While we are each working at the local level to address the unique challenges and circumstances in our respective air basins, we are also working cooperatively to realize our common goal of cleaner, healthier air Statewide.”

CAPCOA has noted that while there areas worse than others, such regions have established remarkable improvement in occurrences of violations for these pollutants since the formation of local air quality agencies. Highlights from the report include:

  • “In fact, since 1980, Reactive Organic Gas (ROG) and Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions from stationary sources have been reduced by 74 percent and 68 percent, respectively. During the same period, ROG and NOx emissions from all sources, including mobile and area-wide sources, have been reduced by 68 percent and 39 percent, respectively.
  • The San Joaquin Valley and the South Coast Air Basin continue to face significant challenges in meeting the federal health-based standards for ozone and fine particles

The report lists the following counties as having no unhealthy air days in 2010: “Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Kern (non-San Joaquin Valley portion), Lake, Los Angeles – Antelope Valley portion, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, San Benito, San Bernardino – Mojave portion, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Ventura and Yolo.”

You can read CAPCOA’s full report here.

Breathe Easy? CAPCOA Releases Report on CA’s Progress Toward Clean Air

We recently relayed that the American Lung Association had released a report that graded each county in the state of California for its air quality. While the ALA noted that the Golden State experienced some improvement in its overall air quality, many counties were shown to rank poorly in ozone pollution. Notably, the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association has released a report of its own that provides some balance on the state of California’s air quality and the progress that has been made. The State’s 35 local air-quality agencies collaborated on the effort that shows there have been significant reductions in ozone pollution over the past 30 years and a reduction in the total number of unhealthy air quality days for the past decade as measured by the Air Quality Index. Commenting on the findings, CAPCOA President and Air Pollution Control Officer of the Placer County APCD Thomas J. Christofk stated that “While we are each working at the local level to address the unique challenges and circumstances in our respective air basins, we are also working cooperatively to realize our common goal of cleaner, healthier air Statewide.”

CAPCOA has noted that while there areas worse than others, such regions have established remarkable improvement in occurrences of violations for these pollutants since the formation of local air quality agencies. Highlights from the report include:

  • “In fact, since 1980, Reactive Organic Gas (ROG) and Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions from stationary sources have been reduced by 74 percent and 68 percent, respectively. During the same period, ROG and NOx emissions from all sources, including mobile and area-wide sources, have been reduced by 68 percent and 39 percent, respectively.
  • The San Joaquin Valley and the South Coast Air Basin continue to face significant challenges in meeting the federal health-based standards for ozone and fine particles

The report lists the following counties as having no unhealthy air days in 2010: “Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Kern (non-San Joaquin Valley portion), Lake, Los Angeles – Antelope Valley portion, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, San Benito, San Bernardino – Mojave portion, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Ventura and Yolo.”

You can read CAPCOA’s full report here.

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