Board of Supervisors will hear the
CSD's appeal on December 10th.

Posted: November 1, 2019
Newberry Springs Community Alliance

Newberry CSD Looking To Hire
An Attorney Very Late In The Process

by Ted Stimpfel

    The proposal of the massive Daggett Solar Power project has been now known for a couple of years.  The regulatory path toward the construction permits is well known as are the means for the Newberry CSD to oppose it.

    The negative impacts of the massive industrial solar facility being placed within a residential community are also known.  So why did the Newberry CSD wait until September 2019 to take any meaningful action?

    When leaving the October 2019, Newberry CSD general meeting, one comment made by Chairman Robert Springer kept surfacing in my mind.  Springer said that this is now the proper time to be hiring an attorney and to be actively contesting the solar project, that earlier was too soon.

    Apparently, Chairman Springer was trying to dismiss the Newberry CSD's dereliction and irresponsible inaction for the previous two years that he sat on the board as Chairman and where he refused to take diligent early action.  Or more worrisome, perhaps he truly believes what he said.

    The hiring of a CEQA expert or an attorney should have been done nearly two years ago.  Newberry Springs needed expertise in the April 2018 Scoping.  Later for input on the EIR Draft, the hearing before the Planning Commissioners in September 2019, and for the CSD's Final EIR appeal application.

    Newberry Springs should have been represented during the entire process.

    While the adage "Better late than never" is true, being late is not professional management.  Anyone can sit in a CSD director's seat as the daily CSD general operations are handled by a paid staff.  But being a Newberry director should also involve preparing for the community's future and protecting the community from adversarial impacts.

    Recent CSD boards have repeatedly failed to properly represent the community.  The attitude has been to shrug-off any forecasting and responsibly of planning by claiming that to do more would be outside of the scope of the licensing charter from LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission).  Robert Springer has repeatedly claimed this.

    While it is true that under LAFCO the powers of the CSD are limited, it is also true that by request, those powers can be vastly expanded.

    The CSD is now in the process of hiring a CEQA attorney.  When hiring an attorney, you would like to think that your matter has the attorney's full and undivided attention.  This is never true.  Most attorneys are juggling at least one or two dozen other pending legal matters with yours and they already have a busy calendar.

    Having worked with a busy attorney for a half-dozen years assisting in legal research, I know that it is not wise to hire an attorney at the last minute.  The Daggett Solar Power project is like a firestorm blowing down upon Newberry.  It is unwise to wait until you are being burned to seek assistance.

    Like fire, you prepare early against it, before a flame.  You take early strategic precautions, you clear brush, you acquire trained personnel and acquire standby equipment.  You take steps to protect yourself by learning as much as possible beforehand.

    With the solar project, the Newberry CSD should have been ahead of the game.  The CSD is now seeking an attorney late and expecting the person to be up-to-speed and prepared immediately.  That doesn't happen.

    While very helpful, a CEQA attorney is going to be at a disadvantage from the get-go having been brought into the fight so late.  The more time that you can give your attorney to understand the intricacies of your matter, the better that the attorney can represent you.  It is far better to allow the attorney to have months rather than a few days to prepare.

    Remember, hiring an attorney is like buying into a time-share.  You are sharing that attorney with a dozen-plus others.  The more time that you can give the attorney to understand your case, the better off you are.

    Two CSD directors are now supposedly interviewing CEQA attorneys and will be supposedly bringing back a hiring recommendation to the next CSD board meeting on November 12, 2019.  If an attorney is hired, by the time a retainer agreement is signed, it will be only two or three weeks before the Supervisors' hearing on the appeal.

    The lame CSD board has been in dereliction of its duties.  But then, the CSD board is made up of community members who lack training and experience.  They have been stalled on the tracks and haven't awakened to our oncoming train wreck.

    What Newberry may also need soon is a class-action attorney to file against the county for damages in federal court.  The Planning Commission's decision, in violation of the county's own Code, has placed a cloud over Newberry that has already cost the community millions of dollars in valuation.

    We need to be proactive in holding the county accountable.  Unlike state court, a federal court filing may hold the individual county players within the Supervisors, Planning Commission, and Land Use Services personally liable for our losses.  If they have no heart in seizing our assets for the benefit of Clearway Energy, then they should personally compensate us, including possible punitive damages.

    The CSD is wise for finally seeking to hire professional expertise as the solar proposal will definitely cause community decay.  Oops!  'Community Decay' is a CEQA buzz term that wasn't included in the CSD's appeal filing; but then, that's because the CSD failed to use professional expertise in writing it.

    Should you wish to participate in the defense of Newberry Springs, please e-mail us and provide contact information.

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