The Assembly Committee on Natural Resources on Monday unanimously approved proposed legislation by San Bernardino County Supervisor Robert Lovingood that would allow renewable energy projects to be built on mining sites where the land has already been disturbed.
Lovingood addressed the committee Monday on his proposed Assembly Bill 1034, introduced by Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Hesperia, on Feb. 26, said Ross Sevy, Obernolte’s district director.
“This is just one more component putting renewable power where it belongs,” Lovingood said in a telephone interview Monday. “It’s one of the many components that will ensure responsible development benefitting constituents, the power suppliers and also keep us meeting the goals given to us by both state and local government on renewable energy projects.”
The proposed legislation, should it become law, would remove regulatory hurdles that complicate the development of renewable energy projects at mining sites. In San Bernardino County, it would free up a total of 12,000 acres of disturbed land at 104 mines for renewable energy development.
The way it stands now, proposed renewable energy projects at mining locations are subject to a stringent permit and review process under the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act, Lovingood said.
“AB 1034 is a common-sense bill,” Lovingood said in a statement Monday. “It promotes job growth, reduces the need to build renewable energy projects on pristine desert land, cuts air pollution and helps mine operators reduce costs.”
The proposed legislation comes at a time when state and federal officials are planning implementation of a comprehensive renewable energy conservation plan encompassing 22.5 million acres across seven California counties. More than half that acreage is in San Bernardino County, the largest county in the continental United States.
In February, the county submitted a 56-page position paper to a task force detailing its concerns regarding the plan, recommending, among other things, that the task force further analyze the potential impacts of renewable energy projects to mining operations and recreation areas in the High Desert. The task force is composed of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Energy Commission and the California Department of Fish and Game.
The county now has $5 billion in planned or completed solar energy projects on its books. Don Holland, Lovingood’s policy adviser, said in an e-mail Monday that solar and wind renewable energy projects at active mining sites could dramatically reduce electricity costs and provide an incentive to continue doing business in California instead of moving elsewhere.
The average mining job pays more than $80,000 a year, and each mining job creates an additional three to four support jobs, Holland said.
In a statement Monday, Obernolte said that while San Bernardino County is an attractive location for renewable energy development, many residents in his district are frustrated with the number of large-scale projects proposed near their homes. He said AB 1034 helps alleviate some of that concern.
“Not only will this preserve undisturbed lands for other uses, it will also help the state meet its renewable energy goals of generating 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020,” Obernolte said.