CA lawmakers pass bill short circuiting environmental review of controversial Calico solar project

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Summary:

-          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.

-          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.

SACRAMENTO (May 10, 2012) – The following is a statement from Kim Delfino, California program director with Defenders of Wildlife:

“The legislature’s action is a serious setback in the effort to plan for the best renewable energy future for our nation and California. 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. Unfortunately, California’s lawmakers allowed a single developer to bypass environmental laws designed to protect the public’s interest. 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. The best way to ramp up renewable energy development is with an open, transparent process that engages local communities, Native American tribes and conservation organizations throughout the planning process.”

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Links:

Read our factsheet on the Calico solar project.

Contact: James Navarro, (202) 772-0247; jnavarro@defenders.org

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.

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