Renewable Energy Attorneys: Unions Abusing Calif. Green Law

Thursday, 10 Apr 2014 05:31 PM

By Joe Battaglia

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According to two attorneys representing a company that builds wind, solar and biomass projects, changes to California's Environmental Quality Act are needed to end abuses by labor unions.

In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, Chris Carr and Robert Miller, representatives for EDF Renewable Energy, argued that "efforts to wean the state from fossil fuels are being hamstrung by the misuse of laws that drive up the costs of renewables projects, which amounts to a tax on consumers."

Carr and Miller write that unions like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, California Unions for Reliable Energy and the Laborers' International Union of North America, whom they accuse of circumventing the California Environmental Quality Act by bringing legal suits to delay the issue of permits until union labor is guaranteed by developers of renewable energy.

As an example, they cited an EDF Renewable Energy case, in which they defeated a lawsuit brought by a wind-farm owner alleging that the company's planned wind farm nearby would create "wind wake," an environmental impact necessitating review under the California Environmental Quality Act. Kern County Superior Court threw out the suit.

Another instance, according to Carr and Miller, is a provision of the California Fish and Game Code that prohibits "taking, capturing, or destroying" the nests or eggs of birds-of-prey. The outdated law, originally crafted to prevent collection of bird eggs for sale as food and nests to be used for ladies hats, is being interpreted by some California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials to prohibit cutting down trees containing the nest of even common bird species.

Another regulation specifies that certain fur-bearing mammals, including the desert kit fox, "may not be taken at any time," clearly an attempt to outlaw trapping the desert kit fox for its fur. But, Carr and Miller point out that modern interpretation would prohibit a solar developer from trapping a desert fox within the confines of a construction site and relocating it for its own safety.

As Californians, Carr and Miller said they "love the environmental amenities it offers, including its native wildlife, and oppose gutting the state's wildlife laws and regulations." However, they believe the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife "should interpret laws and implement rules… with an appreciation of the context in which the laws were passed."

"Such a modest approach would lead to better results," they wrote, adding that because these laws are not being interpreted "in a common-sense way," the abused environmental regulations "could be the unfortunate reason the state loses its leadership in renewable energy."

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