Tag Archive for Fresno County

A First Crack at Analyzing the Proposed CEQA Reform: “The Sustainable Environmental Protection Act” of 2012

UPDATE: the Sacramento Bee reports in CEQA Overhaul Amended into Senate Bill that the Sustainable Environmental Protection Act has been inserted into Senate Bill 317, but as of 10:52 a.m. on August 23, the version of Senate Bill 317 posted on the California State Legislature’s web is still the old 2011 language. Not that anyone actually plans to read the language anyway … talking points are already prepared.


The rumors were true! Specific language is now circulating in the California State Legislature to make changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). It’s called the “Sustainable Environmental Protection Act.”

Here’s a concise summary of the contents:

Section 21200 – Orwellian name of the bill is the Sustainable Environmental Protection Act.

Section 21200.5 – a LONG list (a through q) of the legislature’s findings regarding the innumerable environmental laws in effect in California, followed by some observations about additional environmental activities and priorities. At the very end of the list are some cautiously critical statements about duplicative environmental reviews and the problems that result, including “litigation and the considerable political uncertainty” that delay projects and activities.

Section 21201 – definitions of various terms related to CEQA and the bill itself.

Section 21202 – documents prepared about proposed projects and activities by lead public agencies under CEQA shall disclose all applicable environmental laws listed in Section 21200.5. The exclusive means for lead public agencies to evaluate and mitigate environmental impact of these projects and activities is to ensure compliance with that list of laws.

Section 21203 – outside parties cannot challenge individual projects on the basis of environmental laws for which the public agency has shown that the project complies, and outside parties cannot challenge individual projects with characteristics that are shown to conform to already existing land use plans.

Section 21204 – lead public agencies don’t need to evaluate “aesthetic impacts” under CEQA unless the project or activity affects an official state scenic highway.

Section 21204.5 – lead public agencies still need to evaluate impact on Native American resources and conform to existing laws about working with Native American representatives on such matters.

Section 21205 – the reforms in the Sustainable Environmental Protection Act only apply to projects for which lead public agencies agree to make an annual report available to the public in electronic form about the legally-mandated reporting or monitoring program meant to ensure changes and mitigation procedures actually occur.

Section 21206 – public agencies may adopt requirements for information or analysis beyond those requirements under CEQA.

Section 21207 – environmental documents prepared under CEQA shall be required to consider only the environmental topical areas lists in Section 21200.5(b); that is, 17 environmental topical areas with 84 criteria. Also, the state won’t reimburse local governments for the cost of these mandates.

Here’s how the loyal opposition found out about the proposed Sustainable Environmental Protection Act:

Republican legislators and staff received the language as an attachment late this afternoon with this email message:

Sent: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 4:00 PM

Subject: CEQA Reform RN

To Assembly Republican Caucus Members,

Attached is the CEQA reform language we received this afternoon. This is what came out of Leg Counsel, however  we will not be able to confirm the accuracy of this language to what is put across the desk until the language it is actually across the desk. As soon as that happens our staff will be notified of the language and we will immediately reconcile. Should there be any changes or amendments we will analyze those a.s.a.p. and have updated comments for your consideration.

Should you have any questions for staff in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact xxxx at xxx-xxxx. Leadership staff is also available to answer any questions you might have.

One of the recipients of this email promptly sent it to me for my assessment of the proposed language in terms of how it would affect “greenmail,” the practice in which unions use CEQA objections to block or delay projects for the real purpose of seeking labor agreements or other labor concessions.

Would “greenmail” continue unabated if the Sustainable Environmental Protection Act became law? Would it be worth a compromise that included tax increases or other gifts to the tax-and-spend majority in the California State Legislature?

Here’s my preliminary analysis of the proposed Sustainable Environmental Protection Act, from the perspective of opposing union CEQA greenmail:

It’s hard to look at such a complicated bill and know the motives behind each and every provision. But I randomly selected from my files one massive union CEQA objection to a proposed solar energy plant (the Gestamp Asetym Solar “GIFFEN 1” Project in Fresno County) and cross-referenced it closely with the language of the Sustainable Environmental Protection Act. Here are my preliminary conclusions.

The Meat of the Bill #1: Outside Parties Cannot Challenge Individual Projects for Reasons Outside of the Numerous Environmental Laws Listed in the Bill

Section 21202 appears to establish that the exclusive means of evaluating and mitigating environmental impacts under CEQA for a proposed project or activity shall be the environmental document prepared under CEQA, provided the document discloses all applicable environmental laws listed in Section 21200.5 and indicates the changes to the project or the mitigation steps that will be taken to minimize environmental impact under those laws. A similar (perhaps redundant?) statement is made in Section 21207 regarding environmental topical issues in Section 21200.5(b).

Value of the Reform: QUESTIONABLE. It seems to me that the effectiveness of this language depends on how extensively outside parties use arguments in CEQA objections that are unambiguously irrelevant to current environmental laws.

For example, on May 7, 2012, the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo objected on behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and other parties to the Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration prepared by Fresno County for the Gestamp Asetym Solar “GIFFEN 1” Project. One of the arguments was that “The IS/MND Fails to Describe Baseline Conditions Related to Hazards and the Potential Occurrence of Coccidioides immitis at the Project Site.” This relates to how construction activities can reportedly stir up dust on which spores are attached that can cause “Valley Fever” if breathed into the lungs.

Now, which law listed in Section 21200.5 covers the risk of construction workers breathing in dust that could cause a Valley Fever infection? Is this an issue related to air quality, hazards and hazardous materials, or what? Could this item be reasonably ruled as outside of the list of laws in Section 21200.5?

In addition, even if this ONE particular item was ruled irrelevant under the provisions of the “Sustainable Environmental Protection Act,” the unions responded to Fresno County’s mitigated negative declaration with 28 pages of CEQA objections, many of them that a court would easily consider to fall under one of the classifications in the list of laws under Section 21200.5.

Perhaps Sections 21202 and 21207 would knock off some of the most far-fetched petty objections from small-time underfunded neighborhood troublemakers and even nullify a few of the numerous arguments generated by the professional extortionist law firms, but I question how often a project is blocked by objections completely unrelated to the 84 criteria in 17 environmental topic areas.

Recommendation: I recommend that state legislators ask the authors of this bill to provide FIVE examples of projects held up exclusively on the basis of environmental objections that fall outside of the list in Section 21200.5.

The Meat of the Bill #2: Outside Parties Cannot Challenge Individual Projects On The Basis Of Environmental Laws For Which The Public Agency Has Already Shown That The Project Complies

Section 21203(a)(1) appears to mean that if the public agency shows in its environmental document required under CEQA that environmental laws listed in Section 21200.5 are applicable to the project or activity, and the public agency also shows in the document how the changes or mitigation measures for the project ensure compliance with these laws, then outside parties cannot challenge the public agency’s decisions regarding these laws.

Value of the Reform: QUESTIONABLE. What serves as compliance for a public agency might not serve as compliance according to an outside party. Aren’t CEQA challenges (“causes of action”) premised on the idea that public agencies will often stretch to find compliance and therefore approve projects or activities despite the potential for significant environmental impact?

For example, on May 7, 2012, the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo objected on behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and other parties to the Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration prepared by Fresno County for the 18 megawatt Gestamp Asetym Solar “GIFFEN 1” Project. Objections include claims that Fresno County failed to set the appropriate environmental baseline for agriculture, air quality, and hazards and failed to recognize potentially significant and unmitigated impacts on agriculture, air quality, and biological resources.

Would Section 21203 nullify all of these claims? Wouldn’t California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and other parties simply reject the County’s claim of compliance and seek a preliminary injunction from a judge to freeze approval of the project?

Recommendation: I recommend that state legislators ask the authors of this bill to provide FIVE examples of projects held up by objections that would be rejected under the Sustainable Environmental Protection Act because the projects were clearly and unambiguously in compliance with the huge list of environmental laws in Section 21200.5. Also, state legislators need to ask what the disincentive would be for an outside party to simply challenge the environmental document in court earlier in the CEQA proceeding.

The Meat of the Bill #3: Outside Parties Cannot Challenge Individual Projects That Are Shown To Characteristically Conform To Existing Land Use Plans

Section 21203(a)(2) appears to mean that if a specific proposed project or activity is shown by the public agency to be consistent with existing density, use type, and intensity requirements and standards in a Land Use Plan (such as a General Plan, a Specific Plan, or a Sustainable Community Strategy), then outside parties cannot challenge the public agency’s decision.

Value of the Reform: QUESTIONABLE. Let’s again take the example of the proposed 18 megawatt Gestamp Asetym Solar “GIFFEN 1” Project. The Gestamp Asetym Solar project is proposed for the Exclusive Agricultural, 20-acre minimum parcel size Zone District, according to a November 22, 2011 memo circulated within and outside the Fresno County Land Use and Planning Division. Obviously the reform of Section 21203(a)(2) would not assist the Gestamp Solar company in avoiding the union CEQA objections to their proposed solar energy plant.

In fact, how many proposed or approved solar energy generating facilities in California qualify within the existing density, use type, and intensity requirements and standards in a Land Use Plan? Many of the solar plants proposed in San Joaquin Valley are proposed for agricultural zones.

I recommend that state legislators ask the authors of this bill to provide FIVE examples of renewable energy projects held up by objections that would be rejected under the Sustainable Environmental Protection Act because of duplicative CEQA review.

The Meat of the Bill #4: The End of Aesthetics

Section 21204 states that, except for official state scenic highways, “a lead agency shall not be required to evaluate aesthetics pursuant to CEQA or this division, and the lead agency shall not be required to make findings” regarding aesthetics.

Value of the Reform: QUESTIONABLE. Aesthetics is in the eye of the beholder. Some people would say that the power plant in the City of Carlsbad is an ugly gash on the retina that destroys a beautiful coastal vista. Others might consider it an artistic touch that breaks the monotony of the shoreline and provides a pleasing, delightful contrast.

What is beauty? Who is the judge? Can aesthetics be reduced to a subjective economic measurement based on property values? (If so, would it be more appropriate to include aesthetics in an economic impact report than an environmental impact report?)

Has anyone ever analyzed the evaluation of aesthetics in CEQA documents? It sounds like a good PhD thesis for someone in art or architecture school.

Section 21204(b) allows lead public agencies to consider aesthetics under laws other than CEQA. My guess is that heritage trees and trees in general are often the primary aesthetics issue disputed in CEQA reviews. These are often matters of local law.

Recommendation: I recommend that state legislators ask the authors of this bill to provide examples of aesthetic objections to projects under CEQA that would not be applicable if the Sustainable Environmental Protection Act became law. What eyesores are at issue here?

The Bill Encourages Public Agencies to Collect and Maintain Electronic Records of CEQA Proceedings

I agree with one finding that is mildly critical of the current CEQA process. Section 21200.5(n) notes that the respondent public agency is the only party that has the complete record of documents concerning proceedings when outside parties use CEQA as the basis to challenge the agency’s decisions. It encourages public agencies to create and maintain electronic records of these proceedings.

As I’ve attempted to develop a complete documentary record of how unions exploit CEQA to block proposed construction projects, I’ve often found it difficult to obtain relevant documents from government agencies. Documents aren’t available on web sites and sometimes can’t be provided in electronic format. Apparently I’m not the only person who has encountered this obstacle to tracking CEQA actions.

Value of the Reform: WEAK. Unfortunately, the Sustainable Environmental Protection Act does not go so far as to REQUIRE public agencies to maintain electronic records about CEQA proceedings and make them available on their web sites, probably for practical reasons: some small public agencies in California probably don’t even own a document scanner. Effective outreach to the public with a web site varies widely among California local governments.

The Bill Provides an Incentive for Public Agencies to Be Diligent in Complying with Reporting and Monitoring of Changes and Directives to Reduce Environmental Impact

Section 21205 states that a public agency can only adopt the reforms of the Sustainable Environmental Protection Act if the agency complies with Public Resources Code Section 21081.6(a)(1), which states the following concerning an agency that determines that changes or alterations in a project mitigate or avoid significant environmental effects:

The public agency shall adopt a reporting or monitoring program for the changes made to the project or conditions of project approval, adopted in order to mitigate or avoid significant effects on the environment. The reporting or monitoring program shall be designed to ensure compliance during project implementation. For those changes which have been required or incorporated into the project at the request of a responsible agency or a public agency having jurisdiction by law over natural resources affected by the project, that agency shall, if so requested by the lead agency or a responsible agency, prepare and submit a proposed reporting or monitoring program.

Value of the Reform: WEAK. This requirement is already in law, so shouldn’t public agencies be doing it already?

Conclusion: There Are Better Options

Without obtaining a list of the specific past and future projects and activities that would have benefited from the Sustainable Environmental Protection Act, I certainly wouldn’t consider this bill to be a worthy trade-off for a tax increase. Besides, there have been better proposals in the past:

The most direct and effective way to stop the misuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is to amend CEQA itself to prohibit the behavior. Past legislative efforts to do this have failed:

2008 – Bill to Make Greenmail a Crime Fails to Pass Senate Committee

A large coalition of construction groups supported Senate Bill 1631. Authored by Senator Dick Ackerman (R) on behalf of Associated General Contractors (AGC), this bill would have created a misdemeanor crime for any person who filed or threatened to file an environmental objection to a public works project in order to obtain or extract money or other thing of value from the person. Under the definition of “public works” in Labor Code Section 1720, applicable projects would have included numerous private projects that get public subsidies or other public benefits.

Opponents of the bill included various umbrella groups for construction unions, including the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. The bill failed in the Senate Government Organization Committee on April 15, 2008 on a 5-5 party line vote, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed.

2005 – Bill to Squash Greenmail Fails in Senate Committee

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California continued its legislative fight against “greenmail” targeted at power plant developers, in which unions block licensing of power plants on environmental grounds until the developer agrees to sign a Project Labor Agreement. On April 19, 2005 the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee considered Senate Bill 628, a bill sponsored by ABC of California and introduced by Senator Bob Dutton (R-Riverside). The bill would have required the California Energy Commission (CEC) to allow parties to present testimony about alleged misuse of its licensing procedures to exert economic pressure on a party to enter into a labor agreement. It also would have required the CEC to take certain steps to maintain its neutrality in labor disputes, including the exclusion of parties  from participating in the siting process, restricting the rights of parties in that process, and reducing the weight of the participation of a party in that process.

Committee Chairwoman Martha Escutia (D-Montebello) spent more than 20 minutes on discussion of the bill, including asking a representative of the CEC to speak on the matter. The Riverside Chamber of Commerce supported the bill, recognizing that greenmail is delaying Riverside’s proposed municipal power plant. An attorney for California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and union lobbyists testified against the bill. The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California submitted an eight-page letter of opposition. It was defeated in a party-line vote.

2012 – Bill to Limit CEQA Lawsuits to the Attorney General Fails in Assembly Committee

On January 9, 2012, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee considered and rejected a proposed CEQA reform bill (Assembly Bill 598) introduced by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) that would have given the California Attorney General the sole and exclusive right to file lawsuits against governments for inadequate environmental review under CEQA. Assemblywoman Grove cited four specific examples of CEQA abuse by labor unions:

In 2011, the Teamsters union filed a CEQA lawsuit against VWR International, a distributor of laboratory supplies. The union, in an attempt to intimidate VWR International into signing a union labor agreement at a proposed new facility in Visalia, is using CEQA to allege that trucks entering and exiting the facility will harm the environment. This large facility is likely to employ more than 100 people in a county that has an unemployment rate over 15% and desperately needs jobs, yet there are truckers trying to stop the use of trucks! And this is after an EIR has already been approved for the process.

In 2009, the California Nurses Association sued Alameda County under the pretense that the county did not comply with CEQA in approving a project to demolish the deficient Eden Medical Center Hospital and other buildings and replace them with a new state of the art hospital and medical office complex. The nurses’ union did not want Sutter Health to close the San Leandro Hospital and reduce the number of beds at the Eden Medical Center. Here we see nurses protesting against a state-of-the-art new hospital.

The Service Employees International Union filed a CEQA lawsuit in 2007 to stop construction of Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills and a CEQA lawsuit in 2006 to stop construction of Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento. Both of these lawsuits occurred in the context of SEIU organizing campaigns.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union has been behind numerous CEQA lawsuits filed by a Davis lawyer against proposed Wal-Mart projects in Northern California. These lawsuits are related to unions concerns over non-signatory competition for grocery sales.

Until CEQA reform addresses this kind of abuse, it’s not going to make much of a difference.

Unions Use “Valley Fever” as Angle Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to Object to Proposed Solar Power Plant in Fresno County

Solar energy developers proposing to build power plants in the San Joaquin Valley should be aware that California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and its law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo are exploiting the “Valley Fever” infection as an angle to challenge the approval of these projects under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA (California Public Resources Code Section 21000 et seq.).

According to the PubMed Health database of the National Center for Biotechnology Information of the U.S. National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health (a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), people are infected with Valley Fever when spores of the fungus Coccidioides immitis enter their bodies through the lungs. This fungus is found in soils in the desert regions of the southwestern United States (including the San Joaquin Valley of California). Presumably the instances of Valley Fever can be reduced by controlling airborne dust that carries the spores.

For CURE, the only “cure” for Valley Fever is a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) giving unions a monopoly on construction of the power plant.

I obtained a transcript of the May 10, 2012 Fresno County Planning Commission meeting, at which an attorney for California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) demanded that the Planning Commission reject the Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration for the proposed Gestamp Asetym Solar project. The attorney for California Unions for Reliable Energy – Elizabeth Brenner of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo – portrayed herself at this hearing as representing “Fresno County Citizens for Responsible Solar.”

When California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) submitted its last-minute objections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) on May 7, 2012 against the county’s proposed Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Gestamp Asetym Solar project, it claimed the county had inadequately analyzed the risks of Valley Fever:

The IS/MND Fails to Describe Baseline Conditions Related to Hazards and the Potential Occurrence of Coccidioides immitis at the Project Site

C. immitis is a soil fungus native to the San Joaquin Valley which causes Coccidiodomycosis, commonly known as “Valley Fever.” Valley Fever is typically transmitted by inhalation of airborne spores of C. immitis, which grow in soil during the wet season. Infection occurs in endemic areas and is most commonly acquired in the summer or the late fall during outdoor activities. Valley Fever is endemic in San Joaquin Valley and occurs both among residents and visitors to the Valley. C. immitis spores are spread through disturbed dust particles or soil disturbance, such as excavation and grading activities. In most cases, the primary infection is in the lungs. In 35-40% of cases, infection leads to mild influenza 1 to 4 weeks after exposure, although some persons develop severe pneumonia. If left untreated, in 1% if cases Valley Fever can spread beyond the lungs and can be fatal. People at greatest risk for contact include farmers and construction workers.

The Fresno County Department of Public Health has collected and evaluated Valley Fever statistics since 2004. In the years 2004-2010, the County’s data indicate an increase in numbers of cases as well as in incidence rates of Valley Fever in Fresno County. In 2006, a peak occurred with 83 cases per 100,000 persons. The IS/MND fails to disclose that C. immitis is endemic in Fresno County and may occur at the Project site. This informational deficiency renders the IS/MND inadequate under CEQA. “A prejudicial abuse of discretion occurs if the failure to include relevant information precludes informed decisionmaking and informed public participation, thereby thwarting the statutory goals of the EIR process.” The County’s failure to identify the potential presence of C. immitis on the Project site and Valley Fever as a regional public health concern in the IS/MND precludes decisionmakers and the public from considering the Project in its environmental context.

The comments included a report prepared by Clark & Associates Environmental Consulting in Los Angeles noting that “The proponents have failed to consider the impact of the project on the generation of Valley Fever (VF) cases in the immediate area.”

At the May 10 hearing, one of the Planning Commissioners noted the union objection concerning Valley Fever and asked the project applicant – Gestamp Solar – what the company would do to protect construction workers:

Commissioner Ferguson: Well, the reason why I’m asking is that – you know, Valley Fever – the incidence of Valley Fever in this county has increased significantly in the years, and it’s – when I checked the Fresno County health department website there have been a lot of articles about this specific issue. And this is irregardless of the questions that I’m sure are going to be coming up from one of the folks speaking in opposition. And the only reason I’m bringing it up is because my own son had Valley Fever. So according to the Fresno County Department of Health, the way to mitigate or to protect workers from valley fever is to keep the soils wet in order to reduce dust, and to provide, especially during construction, masks to prevent the inhalation of dust particles that could be carrying this nasty organism.

A representative of Gestamp Solar informed the commission that it hired contractors to perform the actual construction, and the contractors have to follow health and safety regulations, including those from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the Fresno County Department of Public Health. Then someone on the Planning Commission staff made these comments:

And then also I think you had one question in regards to Valley Fever. It’s highly likely that people of local would be hired, and they have a tolerance for Valley Fever. That being said, in our design we minimize grading operations. We try to fully utilize the lay of the land, so we are going to minimize any grading operations on that site, so it would be much less than any ag use prior to it has had out there. So this is a great project for minimizing dust in the – in the air. So that – that is one way to control, is just minimizing the actual earth work that you do, and that’s what he will do.

Perhaps local residents of the San Joaquin Valley have a natural resistance to Valley Fever, but there is no guarantee that local residents will build the power plant if California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) gets Gestamp Solar to submit to a Project Labor Agreement.

As shown in the Sierra Club’s August 2, 2012 letter on Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) to the California Energy Commission  and a December 19, 2011 inquiry from the California Energy Commission to the Kern, Inyo, Mono Counties Building Trades Council, people suspect that union workers are travelling long distances from urban areas to perform work on solar power plants in rural areas of the state. The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California admits to the practice: in its opening brief submitted to the California Supreme Court in State Building and Construction Trades Council v. City of Vista, the union group acknowledges that “construction workers today routinely commute to projects outside the cities in which they happen to live” and “it is not uncommon for today’s construction workers to commute more than 100 miles to work at a job site.” This happens because construction trade unions have geographical jurisdictions that often encompass large regions and because they use a “traveler” classification so out-of-area union workers have access to jobs.

Valley Fever is not a new problem for out-of-area union workers taking jobs in the San Joaquin Valley. When unions built natural gas power plants in the San Joaquin Valley under Project Labor Agreements extracted from developers by California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) in the early 2000s, their out-of-area workers suffered from Valley Fever.

As reported in an April 2, 2003 Bakersfield Californian article (“Valley Fever Victims Sue Contractor”), at least seven construction workers sued companies that built PG&E’s La Paloma power plant in Kern County in 2001 and 2002. “All but one of the workers who sued had never lived in the valley before and therefore had never been exposed to the spores before coming here for the jobs at La Paloma.”

Ironically, unions are using the threat of Valley Fever as a tool to coerce a Project Labor Agreement from the solar energy developer, which will then built the plant by bringing in unionized out-of-area workers who are more susceptible to Valley Fever.

Construction Unions Oppress, Exploit, and Victimize the Fresno County Planning and Land Use Department with Huge CEQA Paperwork Burdens

Imagine you are an analyst in the office of the Fresno County Planning and Land Use Division. Budget cuts have forced your department to strictly manage its resources at the same time that solar energy developers are seeking county approval for permits to build and operate 41 solar electrical generating facilities. But you’re abiding by the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and getting the applications processed.

But one thing is wasting a lot of your time: the endless records requests and the voluminous, last-minute submissions from the South San Francisco law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE). The environmental objections alleged in these comments and appeals are bogus, but you still have to deal with the tremendous amount of paperwork.

The Fresno County Planning and Land Use Division responds on August 7, 2012 to a request for records concerning submissions of the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) concerning proposed solar energy generation projects.

Worst of all, you know that these submissions attacking your work have nothing to do with protecting the environment. Sometimes the environmental objections simply evaporate after a while. People say that the paperwork is actually about coercing solar energy developers to give unions a monopoly on the construction of power plants with a Project Labor Agreement (PLA), but the paperwork never mentions union agreements, and the developers never reveal what they surrendered to get California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) off their backs.

Finally, someone is exposing the racket that Fresno County staff has grown accustomed to enduring as a curse of doing business in California. Kevin Dayton of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC and the Dayton Public Policy Institute has now requested all of the documents submitted to Fresno County by Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo regarding proposed solar power plants. He spent three hours on August 7, 2012 identifying and listing them. See the list below.

Submissions to FRESNO COUNTY by the Law Firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo on Behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Concerning Solar Project Approvals Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

General Correspondence

January 12, 2012 Request for notice on several projects including Solis Oro Loma

Oro Loma (Conditional Use Permit No. 3297)

November 4, 2011 Request for documents associated with environmental review

November 11, 2011 Request for comment extension on Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration

November 16, 2011 Comments on Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration

November 21, 2011 Request for documents associated with environmental review (also requests documents related to Conditional Use Permit No. 3296)

Gestamp Asetym Solar Project – 119 MW (Conditional Use Permit No. 3345)

April 23, 2012 Request for immediate access to documents

May 14, 2012 Request for documents associated with application for Conditional Use Permit

Gestamp Asetym Solar Project – Giffin 1 – (Conditional Use Permit No. 3347)

April 30, 2012 Request for immediate access to documents

May 7, 2012 Comments on Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration

May 24, 2012 Appeal of Fresno County Planning Commission approval on May 10, 2012

Gestamp Adame 1 (Conditional Use Permit No. 3345)

May 23, 2012 Comments on Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration

Silverado Liberty (Conditional Use Permit No. 3327)

February 3, 2012 Request for documents associated with environmental review

April 5, 2012 Comments on Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration (also includes comments on Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration for Inspiration – Conditional Use Permit No. 3330)

Silverado Patriot (CUP 3328)

February 3, 2012 Request for documents associated with environmental review

Silverado Inspiration (CUP 3330)

February 3, 2012 Request to receive notices

April 2, 2012 Comments on Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration

April 5, 2012 Comments on IS/MND (also includes comments on Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration for Liberty – Conditional Use Permit No. 3327)

April 26, 2012 Appeal of Fresno County Planning Commission approval on April 12, 2012

Annedale Solar Project (Conditional Use Permit No. 3354)

May 9, 2012 Request for documents associated with environmental review

Rose Solar Project (Conditional Use Permit No. 3320)

May 9, 2012 Request to receive notices

Placer Solar Project (Conditional Use Permit No. 3321)

May 9, 2012 Request to receive notices

Three Rocks PV Solar Facility – Pacific Solar LLC (Conditional Use Permit No. 3331)

May 9, 2012 Request to receive notices

May 9, 2012 Request for immediate access to all documents associated with project

May 22, 2012 Request for comment extension on Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration

Brannon Solar LLC (Conditional Use Permit No. 3344)

May 22, 2012 Request for comment extension on IS/MND

May 30, 2012 Comments on Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration

June 22, 2012 Request for immediate access to all documents associated with project

Oro Loma IV Project (Conditional Use Permit No. 3334)

June 18, 2012 Request for immediate access to all documents associated with project

California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Uses CEQA to Target Seven Proposed Solar Farms (Owned by Four Companies) in Fresno County

It took me three tedious hours yesterday to inspect and index the responses (see photo below) from the competent and helpful Fresno County Planning and Land Use Division to my Public Records Act request for documents related to the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo and its submissions on behalf of construction unions concerning environmental objections to proposed solar energy generating facilities in Fresno County.

The Fresno County Planning and Land Use Division responds on August 7, 2012 to a request for records concerning submissions of the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) concerning proposed solar energy generation projects.

I was able to determine that California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and its affiliate unions have found grave environmental problems with seven proposed solar energy projects, if grave can be defined as “dumping huge amounts of paper on county staff at the last minute.”

Select the link below for each project, and you will go to the Fresno County posting of the application for a Conditional Use Permit and Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration, as required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Four companies are the victims. Here are links to the corporate web sites:

Documents submitted by Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo concerning these seven proposed solar projects include requests for notices, public records requests, requests for immediate access to documents, lengthy comments on Initial Studies/Mitigated Negative Declarations along with hundreds of pages of exhibits, lengthy appeals of county approvals for Conditional Use Permits, and requests for comment period extensions. It looks like they’re working hard to protect the planet from the bane of solar power generation, although some people speculate that their CURE client is more interested in Project Labor Agreements for these projects.