Fairmont Council Votes To Settle with NRG Solar

By Patric Hedlund

In a surprising move, the Fairmont Town Council voted March 24 to withdraw their appeal to the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission against a solar farm given a “fast track” permit. NRG Solar was given a green light to begin building its facility in the Western Antelope Valley without first providing an Environmental Impact Report, which competing renewable energy developers have agreed to provide. The council filed an appeal, then went into private settlement discussions with the company. The appeal was scheduled to be heard on March 30. At the March 24 public meeting held at WeeVill Market, Keith Latham of NRG read the terms of the agreement, which he said will not be public until construction begins in June.

Some of the points: About 40 acres of land for conservation purposes will be “dedicated in perpetuity” to the community. Fences are limited to a height of six feet and no razor wire will be used. Access for wildlife movement through the fenced solar farm will be established.

NRG agreed to plant indigenous trees around the property and “adjacent to the lower fence” to mitigate visual impact. Wildlife movement through the trees will be encouraged. Outside of that “there will be a maintained area, so people can walk and get from one side of the project to the other, without undue problems” in case there are “wall to wall” energy projects.

A parcel of land is allocated for community services. A “small amount of money” will be provided to the community annually for 20 years through a conservancy created by the town council, he said, to benefit the community.

Several of those at the meeting said they are in favor of renewable wind and solar energy, but a regional plan needs to be created— with community involvement— before it is too late.

Members of the Fairmont Town Council said they had talked with “about 80 percent” of the residents within their boundaries, and that there was consensus to accept the plan. Attorneys Pat Murphy and David Jefferies said they had been involved in structuring the deal.

Some at the meeting said that those protesting the vote do not live within the boundaries of the Fairmont Council. In turn, the legalities of a town council forming a conservancy and entering into an agreement with NRG were questioned by some Western Antelope Valley residents after the meeting.

Wendy Reed, executive director of the Antelope Valley Conservancy issued a cease and desist letter immediately, regarding the name chosen for the Fairmont Council’s conservancy. She said it was too similar to her group’s registered service mark. Jefferies is reported to have agreed to use another name. —Reported by Patric Hedund

This is part of the April 01, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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