Our Mission

The mission of The Protect Our Communities Foundation is to protect rural communities and natural resources in southern California and northern Baja California from unnecessary and harmful large-scale and industrial energy projects, and to advance smart energy solutions.

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The Protect Our Communities Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

POC Speaks up for Eagles

The Protect Our Communities Foundation was joined by national conservation groups last week when it expressed outrage over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to offer 30-year eagle take permits.

POC’s concerns appeared in stories on KPBS Radio, the National Review, the Daily Caller, and KCET.org.

As POC board member Bill Powers explained, putting San Diego’s eagles at risk is unnecessary: “This rule change isn’t needed because we don’t have to choose between protecting eagles and developing clean energy. We can do both. There are clean energy alternatives that are less harmful to eagles, such as rooftop solar and energy efficiency.”

Federal Rule Change Will Harm Eagles

Federal Rule Change Will Harm Eagles, Charges Local Conservation Group
California Eagles Are at Risk

Contact: Kelly Fuller

(San Diego, December 6, 2013) Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released its final decision to weaken a key rule that protects Bald and Golden Eagles, in order to more quickly develop renewable energy.

The Protect Our Communities Foundation (POC) opposes this rule change because it would harm eagles, has not been adequately studied, and violates federal law. Two wind projects in San Diego and Imperial counties are known to be potentially affected by the change.

“Eagles symbolize America’s national heritage and deserve more protection, not less. This rule change will make it harder to protect the remaining eagles that San Diegans love,” said Donna Tisdale, POC’s Secretary.

“If you increase the length of eagle take permits from five years to 30 years, common sense says there are going to be some effects on eagles. But the federal government didn’t study the impacts of this rule change even though the National Environmental Policy Act requires it. Instead, the feds have decided to break the law and use eagles as lab rats.” said Kelly Fuller, consultant to The Protect Our Communities Foundation. Fuller was formerly the Wind Campaign Coordinator at American Bird Conservancy in Washington, D.C.

“According to the FWS’s own Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance, there are no proven measures that will reduce the numbers of eagles killed once the wind turbines are installed,” she added. “This rule change is a disaster.”

Before the rule change, FWS offered programmatic eagle take permits that would allow companies to kill specified numbers of eagles at their facilities for up to five years, as long as those deaths were unintentional and measures were taken to reduce and offset the deaths. The rule change allows permits to last for up to 30 years. When FWS first made these permits available in 2009, it said that permits would be limited to five years or less because longer permits could be incompatible with the preservation of eagles.

Under the old system, the permits could be renewed after five years unless there was reason to not to renew them. The rule change abandons the every-five-years-renewal process in favor of longer permits, thus removing the public’s opportunity to help protect eagles by commenting at the time of permit renewal.

POC sent comments to FWS opposing 30-year eagle take permits in July 2012. More than 120 other groups also wrote to FWS criticizing the rule change, including the National Park Service, major conservation groups, and tribal organizations.

In San Diego and Imperial Counties, this rule change could affect the proposed Tule Wind Project and existing Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Facility:

  1. The Avian Bat Protection Plan for Phase II of the proposed Tule Wind Project states that the project will apply for an eagle take permit before it begins operation. A memo obtained by POC through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that FWS regards Phase II of the Project as high risk to Golden Eagles and thinks that it “would likely cause ongoing mortality of eagles and their offspring.” As a result, FWS asked that Phase II be redesigned or moved to another location.
  2. The Eagle Conservation Plan for the Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Facility says that if the project kills a Golden Eagle, the project will discuss with FWS whether to apply for an eagle take permit. Please note, the Bald and Golden Protection Act strictly forbids killing eagles without an eagle take permit, so the Project would have already broken the law.

“This rule change isn’t needed because we don’t have to choose between protecting eagles and developing clean energy. We can do both. There are clean energy alternatives that are less harmful to eagles, such as rooftop solar and energy efficiency,” said Bill Powers, an energy expert who is a member of the POC Board of Directors.

Additional Information:
FWS memo characterizing Phase II of the Tule Wind project as high risk to Golden Eagles. The high risk and mortality statements are in the first and second bullet points on page three. The request to redesign or move the project is on page two.

Eagle Conservation Plan for the Ocotillo Express wind project. See page 41 for discussion of what happens if eagles are killed.

2009 Eagle Take Permit Rule (see page 46856 for statement limiting eagle take permits to five years).

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The mission of The Protect Our Communities Foundation is to protect rural communities and natural resources in southern California and northern Baja California from unnecessary and harmful large-scale and industrial energy projects, and to advance smart energy solutions.

Rooftop Solar: Giving Customers the Tools They Need to Make Wise Electricity Choices

A new article from Bloomberg News explains an unexpected benefit of roofstop solar. Many of the modern systems provide their customers with information about how they use electricity — information the customers often can’t get from their utility company. Some customers use this information to monitor their electricity use and turn off appliances such as pool heaters and air conditioning when they are not needed. From the article:

The same rooftop solar providers that are threatening utility revenues are more than just occupying customer roofs. They’re inside the home, monitoring usage trends and adapting the systems to meet both homeowners’ needs and their own bottom lines.

SolarCity, Sunrun Inc., SunPower Corp. and Locus Energy LLC are amassing billions of points of data in smart home systems that consumers love and that baffle utilities, many of which have no incentive to help consumers manage their power usage more efficiently.

A Nov. 21 Harris Interactive poll of 2,022 U.S. adults commissioned by Sunrun found that 74 percent have an interest in using technology in their home to track personal data and use energy more efficiently.

The Protect Our Communities Foundation strongly supports rooftop solar and increased use of energy efficiency.

Attacks on Mexican Power Plants Show Importance of Local Power

Over the weekend, nine electrical power plants were blown up in Michoacan state, in Mexico. These attacks show that it’s better to have locally generated power, under local control, than to be dependent on imported electricity from outside the United States, such as the power that would be coming over SDG&E’s proposed Energia Sierra Juarez transmission line.

The Protect Our Communities Foundation supports local energy solutions such as rooftop solar, energy efficiency, and community choice aggregation. Check out the Run with the Sun and the San Diego District Foundation websites for more info.

POC Suggestions for New County Renewable Energy Work Plan

This week, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a two-phase work plan for creating a County renewable energy plan.

The Protect Our Communities Foundation has asked the Board of Supervisors to focus on point-of-use solutions that don’t industrialize rural lands or increase fire risk in the highly fire-prone unincorporated areas of San Diego County. Examples of solutions being used in other areas that could be applied here include:

• Point-of-use solar and small wind turbines on new and existing structures, parking lots and brown fields
• Dept. of Defense Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Initiatives for local bases
Three new micro grids located at San Diego Navy bases under DOD’s Environmental Security Technology
Certification program (ESCTP)
San Diego Energy District Foundation & Community Choice Aggregation alternative to SDG&E
• Commercial and residential Geothermal Heat Pumps/Ground source pumps
Fuel Cells using bio-gas, natural gas, and/or hydrogen
Combined Heat and Power (CHP)/ Co-Generation using waste heat for energy
• San Diego Sierra Club’s Run with the Sun rooftop solar initiative
• Environmental Health Coalitions (EHC) Green Jobs / Solar for All initiatives

TV News Video: Clean Energy Projects ‘Harm’ Environment in U.S.

The damage that industrial-scale solar facilities sited in the desert can do to rural communities and wildlife is explained in this short TV news video that features POC board member Donna Tisdale.

Ironically, the large concentrating solar facility at Ivanpah Valley that refused to be interviewed for the TV news story has now apparently killed a Peregrine Falcon.

POC thinks rooftop solar is a better way to generate electricity. This 2011 briefing paper by POC board member Bill Powers explains some of the reasons why.

Utility Companies Are Fighting for Their Lives

As the U.S. moves towards having more of its electricity produced by consumers, the situation is not looking good for traditional utility companies, as is explained in a must-read new article in Bloomberg Businessweek magazine. From the article:

There are 3,200 utilities that make up the U.S. electrical grid, the largest machine in the world. These power companies sell $400 billion worth of electricity a year, mostly derived from burning fossil fuels in centralized stations and distributed over 2.7 million miles of power lines. Regulators set rates; utilities get guaranteed returns; investors get sure-thing dividends. It’s a model that hasn’t changed much since Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. And it’s doomed to obsolescence.

The shift to a new model will put more control in the hands of consumers and local communities, and as the article explains, California utilities are in the forefront of fighting it.

How Industrial-Scale Renewable Energy Hurts San Diegans

It’s not well known, but the current push for centralized, large-scale renewable energy production is hurting rural San Diego and the people who live there. This topic rarely receives news coverage in San Diego, but is the subject of a new San Diego Reader article. POC board member (and Boulevard resident) Donna Tisdale is quoted. From the article:

The community of Boulevard is transitioning into an industrial, green-energy zone. Wind and solar companies have descended on the area with plans to erect wind turbines, solar panels, electric substations, and access roads. Iberdrola’s Tule Wind (15,000 acres), Invenergy’s Shu’luuk (4739 acres), and Enel’s Jewel Valley (8000 acres) are all green-energy projects currently in the works for this small backcountry community. If they are approved, thousands of acres in Boulevard will be consumed.

Since the article went to press, the Shu’luuk wind project was voted down by Campo tribe members.

So what’s the solution? Can we move away from fossil fuels and still protect rural communities and the San Diego backcountry?

Absolutely! San Diego county is blessed with a wealth of sunshine and the sun doesn’t just shine in rural areas. We have urban and suburban rooftops that are well suited for solar panels. We have other clean energy possibilities available to us as well, such as increasing energy efficiency of our buildings. But to get there, we’re going to need better energy policy decisions than the ones our utility company and many of our government leaders have been making. That’s why POC supports the Run with the Sun campaign and is exploring the feasibility of Community Choice Aggregation.

Concerns Increase about Wildlife Biologist Who Broke Eagle Law

In this KCET article, San Diego conservationists share their concerns about David Bittner, a local wildlife biologist sentenced last week for breaking federal law that protects eagles. POC board member Donna Tisdale is quoted.

Bittner’s organization conducted eagle studies for developers of some energy projects that The Protect Our Communities Foundation is suing, including the Tule Wind and Ocotillo Express wind projects. As the KCET article explains, there are now concerns about those studies.

Wildlife Biologist Sentenced for Breaking Eagle Law

David Bittner, a San Diego county wildlife biologist, was sentenced last week for breaking federal law that protects eagles. From the article:

U.S. Magistrate Judge David H. Bartick sentenced John David Bittner of Julian, president of the Wildlife Research Institute in Ramona, to three years probation and a $7500 fine. Bittner pled guilty to unlawful taking of a Golden Eagle without a permit and failing to file any data reports for a four-year period on birds that he had banded. The government could have imposed up to a $100,000 fine and a one-year prison sentence, but instead hope to induce Bittner to turn over years of missing data as a condition of probation.

This article includes a link to the U.S. attorney’s sentencing memo, which is well worth reading. The sentencing memo shows why the government thinks Bittner harmed eagles, describing troubling problems beyond those to which Bittner pled guilty.