Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Major Solar Project for Barstow Region

Public voice concerns, questions about solar project

By Jessica Cejnar, Desert Dispatch

BARSTOW • Representatives from local businesses, higher education, conservation groups and individual residents asked questions and gave their opinions on a proposed solar power project that will be built east of Newberry Springs.

Tessera Solar and Stirling Energy Systems transported two busloads of people 37 miles down Interstate 40 to the proposed site for their Calico-Solar One power project Monday afternoon. What is now an empty stretch of desert may soon house 24,000 to 34,000 mirrored solar dishes. The proposed project will have the capability of generating between 500 and 850 megawatts of electricity, powering up to 425,000 homes. The site visit was followed immediately by a public hearing.

Tessera representatives said they estimate needing 100 to 700 workers during construction, which is planned for late 2010, and 140 full time workers once the project is complete. About 75 percent of those workers will be local, they said.

The proposed 8,200-acre facility is bordered by the Cady Mountains to the North and the Pisgah Crater Area of Environmental Concern to the east. When folks were given an opportunity to step off the busses, their concerns ranged from road access to air and water pollution to concerns about potential impacts to endangered species. People were also concerned with how many jobs this project would bring the community.

“People in the Greater Barstow community have a very earned suspect about energy companies based on past experiences,” said Yermo resident Joe Orawczyk, referencing Hinkley’s prior experience with Pacific Gas and Electric.

Orawczyk visited the site on his own Saturday and did his own research in addition to perusing Tessera Solar’s application for certification that was submitted to the Bureau of Land Management and California Energy Commission. He brought almost 19 pages of questions and comments with him to the meeting.

Among Orawczyk’s concerns was whether or not Tessera’s project would deplete the underground aquifer.

“The water table is 310 feet below (ground),” he said. “My concern is that the aquifer will run out eventually.”

Jeff Aardahl, California representative for Defenders of Wildlife, recommended additional analysis be done on the impacts the project could have on the desert tortoise and desert big horn sheep populations.

“Data needs to be much more detailed and disclosed to the public,” he said.

Not everyone was concerned about the projects, Allen Malloy was there in the hopes of developing a relationship between Tessera and the company he works for, Goodspeed Distributing, a fuel and lubricant supplier based in Hesperia.

Malloy and Goodspeed lubricant Sales Manager Jaime Diaz said they hope that instead of getting their fuel and lubricant needs from another company outside of the high desert, Tessera Energy will work with them.

“Our sales dollars go a long way in the community,” Malloy said. “If there’s an opportunity for my company to grow, we will try to make that business relationship (work).”

For those who weren’t able to make the public hearing and want to comment about the project, they can e-mail their comments to docket@energy.state.ca.us. The docket number for the project is 08-AFC-13.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Obama Eight: and CA 25 CD


The Obama Eight: CA-25

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Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 03:57:59 PM PDT

Second in our series: California's 25th

Only 1% registration disadvantage!
One-third Hispanic population!
Strong base of activist Democrats!

What could possibly go wrong...?

GOP incumbent: Buck McKeon

Dem : 38%
GOP : 39%
DTS : 18%

Obama's performance (margin / vote):
+1.1% / 49.5%

2008 results
Jackie Conaway : 42.2%
McKeon : 57.8%

The Congressman:

I can't really freak out about Buck McKeon. He doesn't jump to mind when I think of GOP Congressmen who give me the willies. Nonetheless, he is staunchly conservative. He's a member of the Republican Study Committee, he's LDS, and he stands by the obnoxious drilling-for-more-oil-is-an-alternative energy policy. That last one's especially curious since the district he represents has some of the country's best solar and wind resources, but zero oil and natural gas.

Oh well. I'm sure he has his reasons.

CA-25 is one of California's big weird districts where a conservative suburban area is attached to a vast rural region. Rural voters are all conservative, right? Whatever, I'm not driving all the way to Bridgeport to find out. But for CA-25 that grueling six hour excursion could make the difference.

Unlike the other Obama Eight districts, CA-25 is not a red district. The registration margin has halved since just last November (Swing State Project has the raw numbers). The GOP's advantage is now only a little more than one percent, so let me repeat myself:

CA-25 is not a red district.

Obama's mediocre showing and McKeon's strong win make this look like a safe seat. Obama did okay in the Santa Clarita Valley, or SCV, and only narrowly lost in the High Desert, but he took a 10 pt. thumping in Inyo County, pulling down his margin. When the Dem registration actually catches up next summer, however, that will be the local meme. Every time Buck McKeon or his prospective challengers get mentioned in the news, it will be along side some boilerplate about how the district recently became purple.

The Dems:

This is where it gets heavy. Bob and Jackie Conaway are a husband and wife team from Barstow who have been going after Buck McKeon for over a decade. In 2008, it was Jackie's turn to take a shot and she raised $5,800 for her campaign. The online record of her effort is basically non-existent. At this time no one, not even the Conaways, have declared for 2010.

The bright spot is that there seems to be a good base of Democratic organization all across the district. That organization was working hard to get Obama elected and I suppose they deserve credit for making CA-25 one of the Obama Eight. There are several groups in the SCV and CSU Northridge is in the next district over. The Mojave Desert Dems in Barstow have recently gotten onto Facebook – good for them.

And up Highway 395 is the Owens River Democratic Club. They are a consolidation of the Inyo and Mono Counties' Dem communities, and their website is well put together. I recommend their blog, which will give you a good sense of the rebellious temperament of liberal mountain folk. For example, there's this prescient post from way back in October:

The Democratic leadership, Obama, Reid, and Pelosi, are badly misreading the public mood on the bailout. Never have I seen the American people so united in outrage over a proposal. This is sadly reminiscent of the vote on the Iraq war and Kerry's spineless defense that he would have done "everything differently".

This is a phenomenal opportunity to show real leadership, limit the power of investment banks and put forward a real progressive agenda. Obama is playing not to lose and has left a huge opening for the republicans to put forward a populist bill.

Those who love wildlife will note that the Full-Throated Eastern Sierra Democrat shares its territory with the bighorn sheep, and like the bighorn, it is a stubborn, unique specimen.

The Outlook:

The situation in CA-25 is curious and frustrating. It's only 2,000 Democrats away from being a purple, 36% Hispanic district represented by an arch-conservative. How is that not a recipe for victory? I'm tempted to berate the Dems of L.A. County for not sending assistance up I-5, but in this case, the locals need to do it themselves

Oh, and $5,800 dollars is barely more than two max donations for a Congressional campaign. Just two! That is not acceptable.

Some mix of Dem registration drives, party apparatus development, and improved performance in the suburban areas could put a candidate over the top. David Dayen sums up the challenge:

There is certainly a profile of a Democratic candidate that could attract serious votes out here. But that person does not yet exist.


I Heart SCV

SCV Dem Club
Democratic Alliance for Action

Mojave Desert Dem Club
(website / Facebook)

Owens River Dem Club

Monday, May 11, 2009

Barstow's Nitrate Problem Being Addressed?

City prepares to begin groundwater cleanup pilot project

May 10, 2009 - 8:42AM

BARSTOW • City officials are expecting to begin construction this week on a pilot project they hope will lead to the clean-up of contaminated groundwater in the Soapmine Road area.

By Nov. 30, the city must provide the Lahontan Regional Water Board with a plan outlining how it will remediate nitrate-laden groundwater in the Soapmine neighborhood. Lahontan determined that the contamination was largely caused by the city irrigating a field west of the Soapmine area with about 1.2 million gallons of treated wastewater per day from 1982 to 2003.

The pilot project would involve pumping up to 100,000 gallons of contaminated groundwater a day through a pipeline across the river to a treatment facility to be built next to the city’s existing wastewater treatment plant. If successful, the system could be expanded to handle about 500,000 gallons a day.

City officials estimated the pilot portion of the cleanup project could cost about $1 million, with the expansion costing another $1 million or more, and ongoing operations and maintenance costs of about $250,000 a year until nitrate levels meet Lahontan’s standards.

Construction on the pilot project can begin Tuesday if the Barstow Planning Commission approves an environmental document declaring the pilot project will not have a significant negative environmental impact at its meeting Monday, according to city Senior Management Analyst Mark Murphy.

City officials had previously hoped to have the pilot project construction completed in March, but the start date was held up in order to complete the environmental documentation.

Some in the city had also discussed a possible alternative that would have involved working with developer Brad Ducich and a group of Virginia-based researchers to create an operation in which ponds full of algae would eat the nitrates, while the algae could be harvested for biofuels and fertilizer.

Murphy said Friday that the algae option is not currently under consideration. Ducich said his team had not heard from the city since a meeting in March, where they outlined their proposal to some city representatives and residents of the Soapmine neighborhood.

Mayor Joe Gomez said, however, he is still hoping to bring Dr. Patrick Hatcher, executive director of the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium, to talk to the City Council about the algae plan and determine whether it would be a viable option.

Christina Byrne, a Soapmine Road resident who has been outspoken on the issue of the nitrate pollution, said she would prefer to see the algae option used if it is viable but was unsure whether the city would have enough time to plan and test it before the remediation plan is due.

The city is also planning to build three more monitoring wells in the Soapmine area in an attempt to determine whether there is one large area of nitrate pollution emanating from the former irrigation field or several smaller areas of pollution. Murphy said the city is currently negotiating easement agreements with the property owners.

Contact the writer:

(760) 256-4123 or asewell@desertdispatch.com

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Undoing the damage of the previous administration

Desert Dispatch,
Letters to the editor,
April 2, 2009

Undoing the damage of the previous administration

A lot of letters written to the editor from Republicans lately are full of rattlesnake venom and poison. Their letters are directed toward people who rightfully express their opinions on the way our former president plunged our nation into such a big hole. That hole is so deep that it will take us a long and hard time to dig ourselves out.

The Republicans are showing their true colors by acting like a bunch of crybabies (boo-hoo) because they lost a lot of congressional seats and the presidency as well. They are calling people, such as Carol Jensen, fascists, Nazis, communists, and other vile names.

Thank God the American people sent a very strong message to our country and the Republican party that we are ready to take back our great country. We can once again hold our heads high and let the rest of the world know that America is back. Our new administration is not a bully, like the former “holier than thou” group who occupied the White House, compliments of the Supreme Court.

I feel like a huge burden of the lower wage earners has been lifted since the national election, last November. This president will not use pressure tactics to scare the American people the way Bush did. Ex-President Bush tried to set himself up like a king or dictator.

Whatever he wanted done, his “brown-nosers” took care of it and also, took the blame for all the bad deeds. The Republicans claim to be such great patriotic citizens, but our last president used political influence to keep from serving his military obligation. He used religion to fool a majority of people to believe that he had compassion for them. He sure showed it after Katrina and the stock market crash and unemployment roll.

Just like all the Republican presidents since President Richard (Watergate) Nixon — President Ronald (Iran-Contra, union busting) Reagan ‚ George (Savings and Loan) Bush — and George (Enron, big oil, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bid Laden, WMD’s, torture) Bush Jr. It takes a really compassionate Democrat to straighten out the messes that the Republicans left behind. Look at the biggest mess of all — it took the Bush Administration only eight years to throw out the laws of the land. If a law didn’t fit his agenda, he and his lawyers and cronies change it to fit his position whenever and whatever it happened to be.

Wake up, America, our new President Obama has been in office for only two months. He is working hard to try and dig us out of the monstrous mound of manure that was left behind by President Bush and his party.

I feel so much more optimistic now that the Democrats are in office.

Mary E. Boyce, Barstow