Name-calling, Deceit, and Victimhood by Daniel Pritchett, Bishop
There has recently been unprecedented and overwhelming public opposition to Inyo County’s proposed renewable energy development areas (REDAs) and associated renewable energy general plan amendments (REGPAs). Instead of facilitating distributed solar power generation to benefit residents, it facilitates exploitation of the county by large utilities. County leaders are now circling the wagons and defending the proposals in three ways:
1) Name-calling: Critics of the proposal are dismissed as NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard). That insult is a compliment. If we don’t protect Inyo County — our backyard — who will? Certainly not County leaders! If county government were doing its job, residents wouldn’t need to be NIMBYs.
2) Deceit: County leaders claim they’re protecting the county from worse industrialization, which would occur if no renewable energy plan were created. Were county officials seriously interested in protection, they would have circumscribed REDAs only around the very few, small areas which have few resource conflicts. Instead, the Planning Department ignored its own rules and circumscribed enormous REDAs which would open some of the most spectacular lands in the county to industrialization. Furthermore, Policy LU-1.17 (Utility-Scale Solar and Wind Renewable Energy Development) of the proposed REGPAs requires “Potential social, economic, visual and environmental impacts from solar or wind renewable energy facilities must be avoided or minimized to the extent feasible.” [boldface added] The “or” gives developers a choice — all they must do is claim it’s infeasible to minimize impacts and they’re granted carte blanche (with regard to zoning laws) to create all the impacts they want. This “avoid or minimize” language occurs repeatedly in the REGPAs and is not intended to protect the county from anything. To the contrary, it invites environmental devastation and is far weaker than the weak language in the Inyo-LA Water Agreement.
3) Playing the victim: County officials claim to be caught between indignant NIMBYs and implacable demands of state government. The implacable demands of state government, however, are not at all what county leaders would have us believe. The intent of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, (which gave rise to the proposed REDAs and REGPAs), is “to advance state and federal conservation goals in these desert regions while also facilitating the timely permitting of renewable energy projects….”[italics added]. The state’s idea is to identify areas where there are few resource conflicts and permitting can be streamlined. Inyo has stood this goal on its head, and, instead, identified huge areas filled with resource conflicts and would require no meaningful mitigation in those areas. Had Inyo accomplished the legislature’s intent there would be a few small REDAs and no indignant NIMBYs.
On April Fools’ Day Supervisors will “give direction” to staff. Please ask your supervisor to direct staff to start again and play by the rules, rather proceeding with a programmatic EIR based on existing, fatally flawed REDAs and REGPAs.