Unions Still Selectively Finding Environmental Calamity in California Solar Projects
Out of nowhere comes a new, well-funded champion of Mother Earth. A group called “Monterey County Residents for Responsible Development” has submitted two sets of letters and exhibits to Monterey County alleging serious deficiencies in its environmental review for the county’s first large solar photovoltaic power plant, the 280 megawatt California Flats.
Obviously the Monterey County Planning Commission agreed with county staff that the group’s fastidious objections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) weren’t credible. Commissioners voted 8-0 on January 14, 2015 to approve the project despite a last-minute “document dump” from lawyers representing the mysterious worried residents.
There has been one brief reference to this group in one local newspaper article. Monterey County community, business, and political leaders are generally unaware of the group, who comprises it, and why it is so concerned about nature.
What can the developer – First Solar, based in Tempe, Arizona – possibly do to mollify such a group and move the project forward, free of legal obstructions? The general public may not know, but regular readers of www.UnionWatch.org have probably already figured out who is behind the front group calling itself “Monterey County Residents for Responsible Development.”
The formulaic and obviously phony name of this unincorporated organization is a giveaway. For those who need additional clues, the name of the law firm representing these concerned residents is Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, based in South San Francisco.
Yes, construction unions are at it again. In this case, California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) – a project of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California – is joining a few unknown individuals to object to the California Flats solar photovoltaic power plant.
Surely the power plant developer knows what it needs to do to shake off this obstacle. In electronic folders and e-mail in-boxes, a Project Labor Agreement template waits to be printed out by a First Solar representative for a signature of surrender, followed by a signature of triumph from a union representative.
But will the additional cost of construction imposed by the union Project Labor Agreement (and the complementary 30-year union Maintenance Labor Agreement) make the project financially infeasible for First Solar? Is there extra government money somewhere available to subside union monopolies for “green energy” projects?
California may struggle to reach its ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals under Assembly Bill 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. In a few years, when California state agencies and local governments are compelled to intrude on residents’ personal behavior in order to reach those goals and save the planet, Californians can ironically blame the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the refusal of the legislature and governor to restrain union abuse of this law for financial gain.
Primary Source Documents
News Coverage of Project, Including Article with One-Paragraph Reference to “Monterey County Residents for Responsible Development”
Major Solar Farm Proposed for Southeast County Ag Land – Monterey County Weekly – March 7, 2013
Solar Farms on Horizon – Salinas Californian – July 2, 2013
Voices of Opposition Surface as Solar Farm Proposal for South County Moves Forward – Monterey County Weekly – July 3, 2014
Draft Report Lays Out Details of Proposed California Flats Solar Farm – Monterey County Weekly – August 14, 2014
Bid for Monterey County’s First Utility-Grade Solar Farm Releases Draft EIR – Monterey County Herald – August 15, 2014
Monterey County Solar Farm Proposal Attracts Praise, Criticism – Monterey County Herald – December 28, 2014
A separate letter from a law firm representing an organization called Monterey County Residents for Responsible Development also raised concerns about the potential for avian species such as the golden eagle and the Swainson’s hawk to mistake the reflective surfaces of the solar arrays for water, trees and other habitat, and injure themselves flying into them.
South County Solar Farm Gets Planning Commission Thumbs-Up – Monterey County Herald – January 14, 2015
Planning Commission Unanimously Recommends Approval on South County Solar Farm – Monterey County Weekly – January 15, 2015
Background on Union “Greenmail” Against Solar Power Plants and Other Projects Using the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
Did Unions Hasten Demise of California’s Solar Thermal Power Plants? – www.UnionWatch.org – July 16, 2013
Unions Extensively Interfere with California Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant Permitting – www.UnionWatch.org – July 20, 2013
Revised List of Union Actions in 2013 Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – www.UnionWatch.org – September 3, 2013
Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.