Posted: October 13, 2019
Newberry Springs Community Alliance
Within the final few minutes allowed, the Newberry CSD streaked-in
and filed an appeal to the county's Board of Supervisors.
The appeal asks that the
county's Planning Commission's approval of the Daggett Solar Power project's
Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) be rejected due to serious deficiencies.
The Newberry CSD's challenge against the project's FEIR
is the best strategy for the community to take as the FEIR is the solar
project's Achilles' heel.
The Appeal Maze
At a yet-to-be scheduled public hearing, the Supervisors will
decide on the CSD's appeal. Should the Supervisors agree that there are serious
deficiencies, the FEIR will be returned to the county's Land Use Services Department
for correction of the alleged defects. If the deficiencies can be corrected,
the FEIR will then be placed before the Planning Commission again for approval.
Should the Supervisors reject the CSD's appeal, the CSD can
file an appeal to the Superior Court or allow the Planning Commission's decision
to proceed to the Board of Supervisors for a public hearing for the project's
If the Supervisors approve the project, their decision can
also be appealed to the courts.
The appeal document that the Newberry CSD filed is disappointing.
It was entirely written by Newberry CSD director Jack Unger who took it upon himself
to write it. Since he wrote a technical book over 16-year ago on wireless
networks, he believes that he is qualified to write.
Unfortunately, Unger doesn't have any legal background, he lacks
technical CEQA knowledge, and he does not have any personal experience in CEQA based
appeals. He also deafened his ears to suggestions to have a CEQA expert
assist him in the preparation.
Consequently, the appeal document lacks professionalism,
strength and it wanders argumentatively at multiple points. It is
deficient by missing some points and the language of what it should encompass.
The community now has a deficient appeal to address a deficient FEIR.
Such would have humor if the stakes weren't so high for the residents.
There was an expectation that Jack Unger would share his
draft as requested with others for their input before the filing of the document
with the county. He did not allow the requested reviews.
Sadly, in representing the community, Unger's filing includes a silly
suggestion to the Supervisors that they "direct Clearway" (the applicant)
to "...move the project to a new, more easterly location that is downwind from
the communities of Newberry Springs, Daggett and Yermo..." Unger's
proposal is unacceptable and repugnant.
First, the Supervisors have no authority to direct Clearway
to move anywhere. Second, Newberry occasionally has strong easterly
winds and flipping sides does not remove many of the community's issues with
So, how good is the appeal application? Well, although
it should be stronger, Unger did a fair job. He covered many of the main
points. The main legal weight of the document falls upon the
good exhibits that are attached.
A troubling aspect is that the application was not done
with the knowledge of a CEQA expert. Despite many millions of dollars
of Newberry's current land value riding on the outcome, Jack Unger and the
other CSD directors have been reluctant to spend a few thousand dollars to
fortify Newberry's solar defense. No money was spent on the preparaton
of the appeal application.
Unger's filing will probably be closely
reviewed by County Counsel. It will be picked-apart by
Clearway Energy's high-powered attorneys. Later, it may be scrutinized
by a state or federal court. The CSD's filing should have been more than
Jack Unger writing by the seat of his unqualified pants. It is the
community's 2,200 residents' health and property values that are at risk.
What Is Wrong?
When pride, self-ego and maintaining a few thousand public
dollars appear to supersede the health, financial worth, and the well being
of the community's residents, we need to question ourselves as to who we
have on the CSD board.
The appeal is a critical legal process for Newberry.
The CSD has recently been quick to hire an attorney at whim for a few acre-feet
of water, yet they don't want to spend available community funds for the biggest
assault ever that may destroy Newberry as we know it.
The CSD should have declared WAR against the Clearway Energy
project and have allocated all available funds to fight it.
Good & Bad
Jack Unger did a fabulous job bringing the appeal matter
before the CSD board, and the directors did a fabulous job in adopting Unger's
Unfortunately, the usual Newberry quagmire of egotism
continues to radiate from the CSD swamp. The Newberry Springs community
is in a fight for its life. If the CSD board can not understand that it
needs to be spending funds for professional help to fight a multi-billion dollar
project, we will all lose.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The CSD's directors have apparently placed the progress of the
CSD's appeal solely in Jack Unger's lap. He appears too busy with his other
endeavors to do much and the other directors may be feeling that they have done
enough with their September 24th vote authorizing the appeal. Their vote
declared war on the solar project but are they now walking away from follow-up
An excellent presentation by a collaborative community effort
now needs to be prepared and presented to the county's Board of Supervisors.
Will the CSD board's apathy and egos interfere? Preparing the presentation needs
to be started now and it should be with community participation and professional
The CSD board continues to need community input.
The next Newberry CSD meeting is Tuesday, October 22, 2019,
at 6 P.M. The public is urged to attend. This isn't the time to
slack off. The clock is ticking! We need to acquire a confirmed
action plan from the CSD and community attendence is critical.
Should you wish to participate in the defense of Newberry Springs,
us and provide contact information.
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