Inyo, BrightSource sign deal

inyocourthouseOn the eve of hearings on the proposed Hidden Hills Solar project near Death Valley, BrightSource Energy and Inyo County have signed an agreement that addresses Inyo’s concerns, pays the County $15 million, minus certain credits, and assures Inyo will not oppose the project in front of the California Energy Commission. In a last minute, post agenda item, the Supervisors added the agreement and voted for it.  Sources said they were “negotiating up to the last minute.”  The agreement is posted on Inyo County’s website.

Tuesday, the Inyo Supervisors approved the agreement to satisfy county concerns about the project impacts. Officials had repeatedly said they had problems with the low amount of property taxes BrightSource would pay, the impacts of their large work force, law enforcement needs, and impacts to roads. The 15-page agreement says that BrightSource will pay Inyo $2.5 million upon commencement of construction and $12.5 million when the company starts to sell electricity. The agreement spells out that BrightSource is entitled to certain credits.

In exchange for this, Inyo County will not oppose the project when the California Energy Commission makes a decision on Hidden Hills. The agreement says that if BrightSource needs to use the Old Spanish Trail Highway for heavy truck hauling, they will pay Inyo a per-incident penalty of $10,000. Apparently, BrightSource plans to use other roads most of the time.

The document, signed by Hidden Hills officials and Inyo officials, lays out a number of details and possible scenarios in the course of the project, including possible plant closure and reclamation.

The Hidden Hills Solar project is described as a 500-megawatt power plant in Charleston View. The project includes two 750-foot towers surrounded by 85,000 mirrors with power generation equipment, electrical transformers and more. Power transmission is proposed through Nevada.

The Energy Commission staff had determined that this project would have significant impacts on many resources. With no opposition from Inyo, the Energy Commission will still likely demand mitigations or determine that the value of generating power outweighs the environmental impacts. Hearings in front of the CEC are scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday in Sacramento.


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12 Responses to Inyo, BrightSource sign deal

  1. Outsider March 13, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    Where can we find this agreement? It wasn’t even on the agenda – how did it get approved? I’m very curious as to how $15 million dollars satisfies Inyo’s original claim of over $90 million in impacts. Somethings fishy – either the original numbers were overstated in an attempt to screw Brightsource, or Inyo just got screwed.

    • Benett Kessler March 13, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

      I have the agreement but was unable to post it online. Will keep trying. I do not know how the agreement was approved.

  2. Desert Tortoise March 15, 2013 at 4:37 am #

    If the item wasn’t posted on the agenda, the supervisors may not legally discuss the item much less vote on it. This is a breath-takingly clear Brown Act violation and needs to be challenged in court.

    • Benett Kessler March 15, 2013 at 8:35 am #

      There are provisions for emergency items. Check out the Brown Act, but I believe this was Kosher.
      Benett Kessler

      • One-term policy March 15, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

        Benett –

        Supporters of the Brown Act say it still lacks enforcement, contending the law has been eroded by court decisions and government officials’ efforts to block access to records. “The unfulfilled promise, I’m afraid, that 50 years has revealed, is enforcement,” commented Terry Francke, of the California First Amendment Coalition, on the 50th anniversary of the bill’s passage in 2003.

        Some critics accuse public bodies of using provisions of the Brown Act to circumvent or thwart the Act’s own intended purposes. For example, the Sacramento City Council invoked the Brown Act to delay action on an urgent matter that the citizens had brought before that body, but which was not on the Council’s regular agenda (October 11, 2011). Since the matter before the Council concerned an enforcement action currently being taken by the City Manager, it was likely that a simple informal consensus and request by the Council to the City Manager would have resulted in moratorium on further enforcement until the City Council could properly take up the matter at the following meeting. Instead, the Council chose to simply inform the citizens that under the Brown Act, they were compelled to wait an additional week before any action could be taken. In another instance, the Cal Expo Board of Directors advised a citizen to take a certain matter to a subcommittee of the Board, rather than present it to the full Board as the citizen requested. The citizen did as the Board suggested, only to find that his presentation at the subcommittee exempted the matter he wished to present from further Brown Act protection. (§ 54954.3(a).) The citizen was, thereafter, prevented from re-introducing the same subject to the full Board at a later date.

        The number of closed-door sessions in local government (especially Mammoth Town Council) is the highest since the town was founded.

        I’m afraid all anyone can do is vote in new councilmen every election.

        • Benett Kessler March 15, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

          You’re right about the voting. I have worked with Terry Francke on some Brown Act issues here in the Eastern Sierra.
          You’re also right that matters which should be discussed openly in front of the public are, instead, unfolded in secret.
          Officials will say that legal matters require closed sessions. True, some matters related to legal proceedings do, but
          not policy matters. Most of the Inyo-LA water issue has happened in secret instead of bringing the public into matters.
          Mammoth, too, may be crafting policy behind closed doors. Officials likely don’t have it clear enough in their heads
          that they must think of open, public discussion first, only resorting to closed sessions in personnel or clear lawsuits.


      • Desert Tortoise March 16, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

        Under the Brown Act, you can call an emergency meeting on short notice with an agenda published 24 hours before the meeting, but you cannot under any circumstances add an action item to a meeting in progress. That is always forbidden. Even with an emergency meeting, actions to be discussed must be on the agenda or no action may be taken. I am on a city council committee in a neighboring county and have to know and live by this law.

  3. Outsider March 15, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Regardless of legality, a decision that has a 15 ( or is it 90+?) million dollar effect on the county should be disclosed and publically discussed with notice! All of these officials talk about transparency and wear it like a badge – especially the new ones – and this is how they operate? Where was the public’s chance to weigh in? Isn’t this the same sort of secret long-term big-money backroom deal that screwed the citizens of Mammoth?

  4. BighornNV March 17, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    We attended the hearing and found them to be a chilling repeat of other California Energy Commission hearings. On all subjects, the issues were never resolved. The project will use groundwater and nobody understands the extend of how their use of water will impact the aquifer. They admit that water wells will probably drop for local residents. It is quite obvious that the California Energy Commission will just roll over for BrightSource.

    The project “will kill golden eagles” according to the California Energy Commission because there will be a 2,000 foot diameter heat flux zone around each tower. It will kill a bunch of other birds. The CEC admits there is no way to mitigate this. It may make eagle sightings a thing of the past.

    Probably the worst part is the attitude taken towards Natve American cultural sites and values. BrightSource was patronizing and tried to tell the native Americans that they didn’t really know what was important to them. They have about 50 to 100 lawyers that are being paid to dump on the credibility of the native people of the area. Sick. All BrightSource could do is claim that none of the people opposing their project had any valid concerns. They are pure evil and they will destry that entire area. Inyo county scammed all of the people who will have to live with this project.

    What a shame that Inyo County will sell out their residents for that kind of money. Inyo Couty has always been run by corruption.

  5. Big AL March 18, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    Projects that could have been good for the county, and not brought a bad impact to the county have been run off by the county supervisors, and now something like this, that is clearly a bad thing for the county is going to be accepted by the county supervisors. Enticed by the big money they are flashing.

    But I fear we will just get something else instead, unless the people of the county stop this. It clearly is not going to benefit this county, it is not going to be the money maker the board thinks it will be.

  6. Rayetta Haskin April 4, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Yes I sen the post this is temporarily suspended. I am writing this to let others know this type of project comes at a serious price to all of us. If it comes back up for consideration to the CEC. I am hoping with this message to ask others to get informed before it does. There is one being discussed for the south end of Inyo County. I live in the community of Charleston View. This is project and others like are so very wrong for many reasons. Our family bought land here in 1972 to retire here. My husband in a Paiute Indian from Pahrump,Nevada. He was raised in Shoshone and Tecopa. His family is here and we wanted to be near them. We bought in Charleston View for our clean water. It comes out of the ground cold year round and is fresh and safe to drink from our hose. We have good soil to grow our vegetables in almost rock free. We can simply till and plant and we get great vegetables. Our air and sky is great and we live almost a ” Walton” lifestyle here. Our grandchildren run and play freely around our 5 acres. We do not have to watch them as we do not have to worry about someone bothering them. It holds a special place in some of the older ones hearts. Because of the quite and peaceful setting. Our granddaughter spoke against Bright Source at this meeting. Her perspective was from her childhood and Native views. She was very emotional about all of this and her voice was breaking as she spoke to everyone. This project would be 3,440 feet from our home. It is marked as “SR1” in the CEC/Bright Source documents. In the Friday meeting in Shoshone. I was suddenly made aware that my house was the closest to this project. My husband and I argued against this project there. Mid-afternoon I was handed a document informing me that Bright Source was offering to put up an 8 foot wall across the front of our property. This is to help with the noise we would have to listen to from the equipment and constantly running turbine engines. In our community right now on most days you can here a pin drop. We have quail, doves, ravens hawks and an golden eagles in our yard year round. Why? Because our little community is the oasis in the area. This project can cook these beautiful birds by the thousands. In the Shoshone meetings they discussed how many “cooked Birds” were okay? How any government official could agree to such senseless slaughter of these beautiful creatures is offensive and wrong. The residents of our community are getting the shaft by this and deserve to be represented better. We are a community of mostly seniors, a few younger adults and a few children. What this would do to us is appalling. I urge everyone to read the arguments against this project. It may come to your area and you need to know what this would do to you as well. Inyo County has been raped for to long by outsiders. We need to improve our areas to the positive for all of us. Rooftop solar would make more sense than what was proposed here.

    • Big AL April 4, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

      I’ve never been out to Charleston view, Ive heard people talk about it, sounds like a nice place .. but anywhere in this county is a nice place. There is beauty anywhere, you just have to see it.

      Companies choose places like this, because they feel it is just desolate land no one cares about. they are right to some extent .. because most people living in places like Vegas, LA, San Francisco see the desert as a big wasteland, so why not put something like this out there?

      A lot of people who live in Inyo county see it the same way, so yeah let them build it out there, there’s nothing out there. In this case, besides the the natural beauty of the oped desert, there are also people who live in close proximity to this proposed solar production facility.

      And … obviously it was chosen as well for the excellent ground water they can suck up, for utilization in the solar production. Of course, they don’t want you to know that now do they?

      I fear as Rayetta says … unless people object, and even in the face of public objection, they will push this through. whether or not the county supervisors oppose it or push for it, they will have support from the state and federal govt. I don’t think her granddaughter’s emotional plea even broke the crust with them. Isn’t it a shame how some can just stone faced take what they can get, and not have an once of care for anything other than money?


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