Legislators Allow Another Enviro "Ransom"

When the word “mitigate” is used repeatedly in a legislative hearing, and written extensively into the summary of the proposed bill, special interest must be wrangling money from business, claiming to try to “limit damages.”

Specifically, environmentalists win another big one extorting another ransom from renewable energy companies this time.

The Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife met and voted Tuesday about a Renewable Energy related bill that would authorize the Department of Fish and Game and the California Energy Commission, to “develop mitigation actions” and “fully mitigate the impacts on endangered species”  threatened by solar energy projects. The bill would “authorize eligible project developers to meet their mitigation obligations by voluntarily paying fees for deposit into a fund which would be used by fish and game to complete the mitigation actions.”

Whew! That’s a mouthful of gibberish when Assembly member Berryhill, R- described it more succinctly as “whatever the ransom is going to be.”

At the crux of the bill are federal funds for threatened species that are eligible for the federal American and Recovery Act (ARRA) funding in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) planning area — federal funds that California doesn’t want to miss out on.

Maybe “extortion” is too harsh, when all parties involved seem to agree that it’s a good idea. A few of the organizations appearing in support were the Nature Conservancy, The Sierra Club, California Council of Land Trust and the California Chamber of Commerce.

When Assembly member Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said that “witnesses in support have begun to circle,” as dozens of witnesses lined up to speak, even the witnesses chuckled.

It normally wouldn’t make sense for environmentalists to go after eco-friendly renewable energy companies. With everyone agreeing that it was a good idea to impose the “mitigation strategies,” it became apparent that with federal funds available, it was a kumbayah moment. Everyone  testifying — including a natural gas company — agreed on the fees, although the gas company representative, after a lengthy schpiel, said they were “not taking a position.”

The bill was successfully voted out of the committee.

– Katy Grimes

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