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First County Solar Project Approved
updated: Jul 23, 2014, 10:05 AM

By Santa Barbara Water Guardians

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY'S FIRST MAJOR SOLAR PROJECT UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED BY PLANNING COMMISSION

Farmers, unions, businesses, environmental groups and community members show up in force at planning commission meeting to speak in favor of the Cuyama Solar Project - many speakers contrast it to the risks and impacts of fossil fuels.

July 22 Planning Commission Meeting, Santa Maria - The first major solar project up for approval in Santa Barbara County drew extensive public comment today from a wide variety of speakers with many referencing the risks of climate change and need to transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy.

The 40-megawatt project would be located in the Cuyama Valley on low-quality agricultural land that lies some distance from usable water supplies. The project would generate enough power for 16,000 homes, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30,000 tons, use no water, and reduce demands on an over-drawn groundwater basin. It will create hundreds of jobs, 70-90% of which would be local, and improve grid reliability, particularly on hot days when brown-outs can occur at times when many farms are running pumps in their fields.

Many speakers contrasted this with water-intensive and polluting oil extraction projects.

"Santa Barbara County faces a stark choice in terms of future energy development. We have plenty of wind and sun and could be clean energy leaders, but we also have some of the most polluting and emissions- intensive heavy oil in the world," wrote David Gold, Chair of the Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Kyle Fischler, speaking on behalf of the Water Guardians, the organization behind Measure P which would ban future high-intensity oil extraction, fracking, acidizing and steam injection in the County, emphasized both the environmental and economic benefits of solar.

"There are currently 47,000 solar jobs in California alone. There are only 12,000 in Oil & Gas Extraction in Kern County, which accounts for 80% of California oil production," said Fischler, "Clearly, the best choice from both an economic and environmental standpoint is for our County to pursue more clean energy."

3rd District Planning Commissioner, Joan Hartmann, had the last word at the hearing before the vote to approve the measure. "As many speakers have pointed out, global warming is upon us," she said, explaining the benefit of clean energy projects. She referenced the 57 letters they received in support of the project and how proud she was to be able to approve it.

The Planning Commission voted 4-0 to recommend approval of the project to the County Supervisors.

Santa Barbara County Water Guardians is a coalition of concerned parents, professionals, farmers, students , business, community and environmental organizations seeking to ban fracking and other high- intensive petroleum operations that threaten our water quality and supplies in Santa Barbara County. Learn more: www.waterguardians.org

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