BREAKING: The California State Legislature passed a highly controversial bill (AB 1073) today allowing a single massive solar-energy project to bypass mandatory environmental reviews by state and local regulatory agencies.
Despite concerns raised by local citizens, conservation groups and American Indian tribes, the California Energy Commission approved in 2011 an earlier iteration of the Calico solar project, but the project has since changed ownership from Tesserra to K-Road Power and change in content and scope.
Revamping the project would normally require additional local and state environmental studies to evaluate the impact of the new technology, but AB 1073 would send the project straight back to the California Energy Commission (CEC), who is expected to rubberstamp its permit.
Defenders’ California program director, Kim Delfino, criticized the legislature’s vote.
“The legislature’s action is a serious setback in the effort to plan for the best renewable energy future for our nation and California,” Delfino said. “The Calico solar project poses such a significant threat to the sensitive Pisgah Valley that it comes as no surprise that K-Road Power would push for legislation that short circuits any environmental review that would bring to light the project’s true impacts.”
The Calico solar project is slated to be built on some 4,000 acres of environmentally sensitive public lands in Pisgah Valley, which provides vital habitat for threatened desert tortoise, golden eagles, desert big horn sheep and other imperiled wildlife.
A number of the nation’s leading conservation groups, including Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club, recently filed federal lawsuits against the project due to incomplete, insufficient environmental review of the project’s potential to harm imperiled wildlife and protected species..
“Unfortunately, California’s lawmakers allowed a single developer to bypass environmental laws designed to protect the public’s interest,” Delfino added. “This move is purely for the benefit of one company, does nothing to speed up our transition to clean energy, and will only lead to more controversy, costly delays and destruction of environmentally sensitive lands.”