San Bernardino County
Increases Its Liability
Assisting Solar Profits

Maintenance men at Stace's Mountain View Road
site are dwarfed by an array of solar pedestals. 
The pedestals are placed 15-feet underground.

County's hidden benefit saves developers millions.
Decommission ordinance allows solar operators
to ignore removal of underground equipment,
saving them big money in decommission bonds
and removal costs.

Posted: March 17, 2018

    Aerial view of the 22-acre former Soitec solar facility on Mountain View Road in Newberry Springs.  Like a shell game, the ownership has been flipped multiple times.

The dangers.

    The site includes 60 solar arrays placed upon 60 large pedestals.  Reportedly, the pedestals extend 15 feet below the surface.  Upon decommissioning, only the top 3-feet of the pedestals below the surface need to be removed, leaving many tons of decomposing metal to poison the aquifer long-term and be hazardous obstructions that may economically prevent many uses of the land after decommissioning.

    Another danger is the hollow tubular design of the pedestals.  There is no decommissioning requirement that the cut pedestals need to be capped nor filled.  If covered with plywood and sand, this could later lead to people and animals falling into the tubes like an open well or an abandoned mine.

    Yet, another problem is that parcels with abandoned underground structures do not have to have the buried structures recorded on the parcel's title.  Future buyers would not be aware of the problem nor the potential liability.  Like abandoned fuel tanks, the abandoned equipment may be later required to be removed.  The costs for removing the Mountain View site's underground pedestals once cut would be extreme, much less the proposed nearby 4,700-acres now being proposed for solar development.  200-times the environmental disaster.

Prudent recording.

    If any abandonment is going to be allowed, all buried equipment should be required to have their positions geolocated on the parcel's title.  This should be a requirement for all parcels in the county, including federal and state land.

County negligence.

    The county's Land Use Services Department was grossly negligent in presenting their ill-conceived decommissioning ordinance before the county's Board of Supervisors that allow these hazards, and the County Supervisors were grossly negligent in the dereliction of their duty in accepting the ordinance without carefully reviewing it.  This appears to be another example where the Supervisors simply rubber-stamped their staff's work without responsible oversight.

    The above aerial image shows a partially developed 22-acre facility.  There are now many thousands of desert acres being proposed to be added for centuries of hidden and unmarked underground obstructions.


    Bea Lint, Field Representative for First District Supervisor Bob Lovingood, is being requested to have Lovingood sponsor a solution to the problem that would require full bonding for the removal of all subterranean equipment upon the decommissioning of a solar facility.

    The bonding must remain active until the decommissioning removal of all equipment.  To assure bond continuity, the responsibility of decommissioning cost needs to be attached as severally liable to each corporate officer to whom the building permit was issued.  Should the bonding lapse, each original officer needs to be held liable unless a replacement was found acceptable as asset qualified by the county and a legal transfer of liability was accomplished under the county.

    Usually, each solar development has its own separate corporation to avoid liability which at the end of the facility's life-cycle can be simply dissolved or abandoned which leaves communities and the county with little recourse.  Corporate officers who harvest the profits and who are responsible for bonding must be held personally accountable.

Not to be repeated.

    Shockingly, the county found no need to require the Newberry Springs solar facility on Mountain View Road to have any decommissioning bond.  The Planning Commission didn't want to burden the applicant with another hurdle to build within San Bernardino County, so the eventual Conditional Use Permit (CUP) only requires that the decommissioning removal follows a simple plan.

    How foolish can a Planning Commission be!!!  The solar facility is a corporation.  At the end of the facility's useful service, the corporation may simply default and close should it be found that the salvage value wouldn't be worth the decommissioning cost.  Hello!  Nasty defunct eyesore for years!

Note lines 20 to 23 below:

    The above is taken from Page 3 of the (proposed) 2011 ordinance that was passed by the County of San Bernardino's Board of Supervisors (snipped from the immediate link below).

    This is a link to the proposed ordinance that was adopted by the county Board of Supervisors.

Related past news blogs:
CSD Board's mismanagement may lead to deaths. - 3/11/18
Newberry CSD struggles with solar development. - 3/2/18
Newberry CSD's inaction threatens community. - 2/24/18
Daggett embraces solar development. - 2/21/18
Newberrians attend solar health hazard meeting. - 2/16/18
Communities collaborating for protection. - 2/11/18
Newberry CSD falls short against solar opposition. - 2/4/18
Bombshell Transformation To Hit The Silver Valley - 1/28/18
Supervisors Are Engineering Destruction Of The Desert - 1/25/18
Corrupt County Leaders Are Reshaping Newberry - 12/3/17
Lovingood Continues Damaging Votes - 11/6/17

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