The Squirrel that Ate California

Friday, May 1st, 2009 11:52 pm by Neal

To borrow Al Gore’s favorite word, there’s a consensus that “green power” is good. Right?

This story is further evidence that in California, the BANANA’s* reign supreme.

It was a squirrel, a labor group and an environmental group along with California’s tough environmental regulations, which helped kill a hybrid solar power plant project for a Mojave Desert city.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The City of Victorville prides itself on being a green city. They recently bought a number of hybrid vehicles for their city fleet. And they are located in the Mojave Desert which receives large amounts of sunshine every year.

When California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), signed legislation that requires a portion of additional electric power generation to be sustainable, the City proposed a hybrid solar electric power plant. The plant would combine a solar thermal powered system along with a natural gas fired system.

After much fanfare at the start, the project began to run into problems during the permitting phase. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) imposes a strict review process. The California Energy Commission (CEC) is the state agency that conducts the environmental review.

The first problem was the squirrel, or more specifically, the Mohave ground squirrel, which is considered to be threatened. While the squirrel has never been found at the project site, nor was there any evidence it had ever lived there, it could decide sometime in the future to live there. As a result, the California Department of Fish and Game decided that the squirrel required a mitigation ratio of 3:1. This means that 3 acres of the desert needs to be purchased and set aside for the squirrel for every acre of project site. This increased costs dramatically since there were few parcels available for set aside.

Read the entire article. You won’t believe how ridiculous this situation has become. This is actually a very sad story for this town. Victorville sounds like a nice place — I hope it can survive this injustice.

* We’e all heard of NIMBY’s — “Not In My Back Yard”. Well, BANANA is a similar variation: “Build Absoloutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything”. If that sounds good to you, well, in California they’re going bananas!

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