Article

Lompoc business owners battle wind farm project

A ruling is soon expected on Lompoc residents George and Cheryl Bedford's lawsuit over the environmental impact report for a wind farm proposed on land surrounding their property. George Bedford explains his frustration with the county's planning process for the project, which would place dozens of wind turbines in the hills south of Lompoc.

New car dealer George Bedford lives on a 425-acre cattle ranch high in the rolling hills of Miguelito Canyon that is encircled by spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, Vandenberg Air Force Base and the city of Lompoc.

If an alternative-energy company has its way, the spectacular view one day will include the Central Coast's first wind farm, dozens of 397-foot wind turbines strung along 2,950 acres of coastal ridges about five miles southwest of the city.

Bedford and his wife, Cheryl, who own Sunset Auto Center in Lompoc, have opposed the project before the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors and now are contesting in Superior Court the adequacy of the project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

If successful, Bedford said, the lawsuit wouldn't stop the project, but would force Santa Barbara County to rewrite the EIR and require the proposed wind farm to meet the same standards that other projects must meet.

"It's kind of struck a nerve right in my neck," Bedford said, wearing his trademark black cowboy hat recently as he drove up a narrow, winding paved road 212 miles to his front... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

New car dealer George Bedford lives on a 425-acre cattle ranch high in the rolling hills of Miguelito Canyon that is encircled by spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, Vandenberg Air Force Base and the city of Lompoc.

If an alternative-energy company has its way, the spectacular view one day will include the Central Coast's first wind farm, dozens of 397-foot wind turbines strung along 2,950 acres of coastal ridges about five miles southwest of the city.

Bedford and his wife, Cheryl, who own Sunset Auto Center in Lompoc, have opposed the project before the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors and now are contesting in Superior Court the adequacy of the project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

If successful, Bedford said, the lawsuit wouldn't stop the project, but would force Santa Barbara County to rewrite the EIR and require the proposed wind farm to meet the same standards that other projects must meet.

"It's kind of struck a nerve right in my neck," Bedford said, wearing his trademark black cowboy hat recently as he drove up a narrow, winding paved road 21⁄2 miles to his front door. "To me, they're not making them follow what they make everyone else follow."

When he was building on his Sunset Cattle Co. property a few years ago, Bedford said, the county was explicit and detailed about its demands, even requiring him to measure the distance from the corner of a proposed horse barn to the drip line of a nearby tree.

That's not the case with the wind farm project, said Bedford and his attorney, Richard Adam, of Brenneman, Juarez & Adam in Santa Maria.

"The county usually wants to account for every blade of grass. In this case, they appear to be simply looking the other way. That does set up a disparate treatment," Adam said. "We pointed that out to the Board of Supervisors long ago."

Senior Deputy County Counsel William Dillon said the county has answered the Bedfords' complaints in detailed court documents asking the court to uphold certification of the EIR and approval of the wind farm project. "The EIR is complete and thorough and fully complies with CEQA," Dillon said.

The case will be heard June 29 by Superior Court Judge James Rigali in Santa Maria.

The Lompoc Wind Energy Project, proposed in 2006 by Pacific Renewable Energy Generation, a subsidiary of Acciona Wind Energy USA, could generate up to 97.5 megawatts of electricity and supply 50,000 homes, according to the EIR. The power would be sold to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

After the Board of Supervisors approved the project in February 2009, the Bedfords appealed, then filed suit in March 2009. The supervisors denied the appeal in September 2009.

The Bedfords have complained about the potential for adverse visual and noise impacts, but now are criticizing the project description as being too vague for an adequate environmental review to be done. Their lawsuit argues that the EIR is inadequate and that the project conflicts with county land-use codes.

"They can put any one of the 65 wind turbines anywhere within about a 600-acre area. We don't know where, in fact, they are going to put these things," Adam said.

Acciona argued that it needed flexibility in placing the wind turbines and won't do the required environmental studies until after it does wind testing and decides where to place each one, Adam said.

"We don't know with any degree of precision where any environmental value is located within that 600 acres," he said. "CEQA requires those studies to be done so you have some definite project. Right now it's sheer speculation."

"You can't do that under CEQA, otherwise you'd be piecemealing an EIR," Adam said. "To say the EIR is adequate is dubious at best."

Eric Schneider, director of marketing and communications for Acciona, defended the company's selection of Miguelito Canyon as the project site.

"The site's selection was based on careful consideration and scientific research," he said in a written statement. "Prior to our acquisition of the project, and thereafter, the project location continued to prove to be a good one based on many factors. Most notable among these include the availability of wind resources worthy of sustaining a commercial wind farm, willing landowner partners, environmental and ecological impact and the effect on the local community.

"The fact is, the project site has valuable wind resources and it is remote, minimizing view effects. Wherever possible we have configured turbines to avoid or minimize effects on public views."

Bedford said the current wind farm plans would place turbines on parcels on three sides of his property, but wind testing is being done to the north, which could mean his property would be surrounded.

But the potential loss of his picturesque view is the least of his frustrations, Bedford said. What bothers him more, he said, is that the county is not requiring this particular project to meet the stringent requirements required of others.

"It's just frustrating," he said.

Adam said CEQA requires the project developer to study other areas in a meaningful way.

"They assert they looked at two or three other sites. But they didn't study them in any meaningful degree," Adam said. "They looked at Hollister Ranch, Gaviota coast, Zaca Creek, but dismissed their viability without adequate explanation. That violates CEQA, which requires you to look at less intrusive, superior places to a meaningful extent."

According to court documents, four sites were considered and dismissed: Zaca Lake region, Channel Islands, offshore near Vandenberg Air Force Base and Hollister Ranch.

They were considered unfeasible, according to the court filings, because of the need for long-term technical studies to establish suitability; lack of infrastructure, inconsistency with the county's Comprehensive Plan, regulatory limitations, and issues with jurisdiction and economic viability.

Bedford also contends that the Lompoc area was chosen for the project because less opposition was expected in the North County.

"They felt they would get less resistance from Lompoc because it's back in a hollow."

The selection of the Lompoc area is another example of this area being treated as a "stepchild'' to the South County, Bedford said.

"Put them everywhere - all along the Gaviota coast," he said. "If the project was on Vandenberg AFB, I wouldn't have a complaint because it would benefit all taxpayers.

"If green is the way the country is going, then these things ought to be dotted all along the California coast.


Source: http://www.santamariatimes....

JUN 18 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/26774-lompoc-business-owners-battle-wind-farm-project
back to top