County could establish position on green energy projects
After opposing one renewable energy project, the Board of Supervisors may establish a formal position on the more than 60 others in the Mojave Desert.
The Board’s vote Tuesday would establish a criteria for staff to focus on when commenting or negotiating with project developers and government agencies. The vote would also authorize the Board to legally challenge environmental documents for projects that fall under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management or the California Energy Commission.
The Board in February decided to intervene in Bright Source Energy’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System project near the Nevada border. Bright Source must to purchase 12,000 additional acres of land to offset the project’s impacts to the California desert tortoise. The county’s concern is that this could affect property taxes if the land is taken from private land. Another concern was that it could inhibit other uses such as mining.
First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt announced his opposition to the Bright Source project’s location in December, saying it would benefit Las Vegas job markets. Officials at Bright Source energy have said the 1,000 construction jobs the project is expected to create would be available to labor union members in Barstow and the High Desert.
Bright Source’s project and other large projects would be addressed, said Andy Silva, Mitzelfelt’s spokesman. Smaller projects would also be addressed, he said. The Board of Supervisors would be able to negotiate with the energy commission and BLM as a single unit.
“It gives us a little clout,” Silva said. “It’s not just the First District, it’s the Board of Supervisors now saying these are the issues we need to address.”
There is also no mechanism with the California Energy Commission for project developers to pay fees to offset the cost of providing public safety and road repairs, Silva said.
Energy project developers usually have to pay the energy commission a fee for processing their applications, which is usually hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Michele Demetras, commission spokesperson. However, that fee is usually waived for developers building renewable project developers in the desert, she said. The energy commission has jurisdiction over three projects in San Bernardino County.
Other development fees could be paid by a project developer, Demetras said, but that would be up to the applicant.
The Board of Supervisors meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Covington Chambers on the first floor of the county government center at 385 North Arrowhead Avenue in San Bernardino.
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By the numbers:
26: Solar projects proposed on BLM land in San Bernardino County.
21: Wind projects proposed on BLM land in San Bernardino County.
12: Proposed projects under county jurisdiction.
3: Proposed projects under California Energy Commission jurisdiction.
Source: First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt and the California Energy Commission