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CA Group: Skip the Courtroom Drama and Let’s Talk Solar

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 By Lori AbbottContact
February 9, 2011

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Let's talk, not sue. A California group says it wants to skip the courtroom drama and reform the approval process for solar energy facilities – by simply talking.

That's what the California Desert and Renewable Energy Working Group has been doing as the state moves forward with clean energy production. The coalition of environmental groups and solar developers has come up with a list of recommendations it hopes will be adopted by the U.S. Interior Department.

Kim Delfino, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife, is a member of the group. She calls the initial recommendations "a kind of compromise document."

"It's not everything that the environmental community wanted, and it's not everything that the solar industry wanted, but it is a good middle ground for which we can build and move forward on."

Delfino says the group's main goal is not to repeat mistakes made last year when some solar companies rushed to beat a year-end deadline for federal stimulus dollars. What resulted was a number of lawsuits from environmental groups, claiming that the environmental impacts of the projects hasd been overlooked.

Some of the new recommendations focus on guiding companies to put their projects in areas that are considered lower-conflict areas, says Delfino.

"In areas that are already degraded, in areas that would have less high flashpoint conflicts over desert tortoise, over cultural sites, some of those mistakes we've seen being made in the 2010 projects."

Another goal is to improve communication with the public. Delfino says the solar companies need to produce documents that the public will easily understand so they can accurately weigh in on the impacts.

The Interior Department meets today and tomorrow in Washington, D.C., and will consider the recommendations. More information is online at www.drecp.org.

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