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Groups Sue to Overturn SunPower Project on the Carrizo Plain

San Luis Obispo, California - Carrizo Commons, North County Watch and local farmer Mike Strobridge have joined in filing a petition in Superior Court challenging the Environmental Impact Report and other permits for the California Valley Solar Ranch on the Carrizo Plain in eastern San Luis Obispo, California. 

The California Valley Solar Ranch is a project of SunPower Corporation and will impact roughly seven square miles of Core Habitat for the last remaining sizable populations of several endangered species.  The Plain is the last remaining intact example of the formerly vast San Joaquin Valley grassland ecosystem. 

The Carrizo Plain is home to 34 endangered and threatened species and the Plain is designated Core Habitat for the blunt-nosed leopard lizard, San Joaquin kit fox, and giant kangaroo rat, all federally and state endangered species. 

The project will severely compromise the goals of the Recovery Plan for the upland Species of the San Joaquin Valley, an issue of national and statewide importance.    The scale of the impacts on endangered species is unprecedented and the effectiveness of the proposed measures to mitigate those impacts is unknown.

The Petition filed on Friday stressed multiple environmental and land use issues including the failure to protect the Public Trust.  “Protecting Public Trust resources are an affirmative duty of government rooted in Common Law and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court over decades,” stated Attorney for Carrizo Commons, Michael Jencks. 

“We are mindful of what happened at Ivanpah, in the Mojave Dessert” said Susan Harvey, President of North County Watch and member of Carrizo Commons. “We can’t afford that kind of mistake with a whole suite of interconnected endangered species. That’s why the County needs to revisit the EIR and reevaluate this project’s impacts, proposed mitigations and alternatives.”  Harvey explained that federal officials have ordered construction halted on Ivanpah’s 392-Megawatt solar project.   The project’s EIR asserted that only 38 endangered desert tortoises would be impacted by the project. Three thousand tortoises were discovered on the site after the project was approved, and hundreds would be killed during construction.

Although thousands of megawatts have already been proposed or approved in areas with few impacts, industrial size solar projects continue to threaten sensitive specie-rich lands and problems continue. 

A second project approved for the Plain could impact an additional 12 square miles of core habitat on the Carrizo Plain.

The unique importance of the Plain for its rich biodiversity and last example of the vast San Joaquin grasslands has attracted national attention.  Concerned organizations like Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Audubon California, Union of Concerned Scientists, The Nature Conservancy, National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club and permitting agencies like the Department of Fish and Game an US Fish and Wildlife have stressed the multiple problems with impacts to special status species, and have advocated for siting the project on lands with few habitat impacts like brownfields and degraded lands like the Westlands Solar Park.

“Westlands is ready to accept 5,000 Megawatts of solar right now and few impacts. It is regrettable that PG&E directed solar energy companies to develop in the Carrizo without regard for its status as the site of the highest concentration of threatened and endangered species in California, and that SunPower did not even know its project site was core habitat for an endangered species until it was far along in the planning process.” Harvey said. 


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