What started as a heated, public outcry ended yesterday with thank you’s all around at the Inyo Supervisors meeting. The Planning Department presented a very changed Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment draft which responded to public concerns.
After hearing from ten people who mostly thanked the Board for responding to public issues, the Supervisors voted unanimously to move forward with the new draft plan with three modifications- to include additional land in the Owens Lake energy development area, to support solar development not only over the LA aqueduct by next to it, and to correct acreage in a solar development site in Sandy Valley.
Yesterday’s agenda item was preceded by several standing-room-only Board meetings with 100 in the room and 30 or 40 speaking. The general message from the people was fewer renewable energy development sites in the general plan amendment and fewer impacts. Most who stood up to comment yesterday thanked the Board and Planning Department for listening to the people and scaling back renewable energy plans, which now only include solar and no wind development and 7, not 14, Renewable Energy Development Areas.
Daniel Pritchett, Vice President of the Owens Valley Committee, said the revised map was a big improvement. However, he said his concern is a Renewable Energy Development Area in Laws where severe impacts from DWP pumps are still under mitigation. He said the County would be violating the Long Term Water Agreement. Pritchett said, “When DWP violates the MOU, we hold them to it. Shouldn’t the County be held responsible too?” He suggested calling a meeting of the parties to discuss this.
John Rothgeb thanked the Board for what he called “an amazingly functional process. You listened.” He pointed out that it is more expensive to generate and transmit power many miles. He suggested the County “go slow” on development.
Others brought up details and language that could be better crafted to protect Inyo County. Supervisor Linda Arcularius said as the environmental process goes forward, these details can be handled. Arcularius also once more wanted to clarify the situation with taxing renewable energy projects. Administrator Kevin Carunchio verified that wind is taxable but solar is not. He also said any projects built on DWP land are governed by the Phillips’ Formula, not State tax law.
Arcularius called the draft plan presented by the Planning Department a “good, general starting point.” Board Chairman Rick Pucci thanked the public for input and said he found it “extremely helpful.”