Point/Counterpoint: Livermore solar project approval | News

In the days after the Alameda County Board of Supervisors denied all appeals and upheld the zoning board approval of Intersect Power’s Aramis solar energy project in northern Livermore, the Weekly received two lengthy and compelling Letters to the Editor with opposing viewpoints on the development.

Rather than opt for shortened versions, we decided to run the full submissions in a Point/Counterpoint format. Here are the original commentaries from Dawn Argula, CEO and president of the Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce, and resident David Rounds, who has been actively tracking the project.

For renewable energy

By Dawn Argula

The Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce has been on record since 2020 in support of the Aramis renewable energy project. It clearly aligns with LVCC policy priorities that include support for sustainable and sufficient infrastructure for a thriving economy. The project was approved in a 5-0 vote by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on March 4.

LVCC deeply appreciates the due diligence performed by Alameda County — staff, and the East County Board of Zoning Adjustments, the appointed body of commissioners that oversee planning matters in eastern unincorporated Alameda County and the authority for the jurisdiction in which this project is proposed.

LVCC is thankful for the thoughtful and deliberative consideration of the five-member Board of Supervisors, and its action to approve the Aramis project.

Aramis worked with the county and the community to go far beyond in meeting additional expectations and planning for further contingencies

We wish to recognize the actions of District 1 supervisor representing the Livermore Valley, David Haubert, who took office this January. Supervisor Haubert quickly got up to speed on this important issue, listened to the concerns of neighbors, considered the findings in the required environmental review of the project and staff recommendation, and heard hours of public comment as he deliberated a decision and action.

I streamed the meeting on March 4, and it was clear that a recognition of the importance and value of both the land and of the opportunity to, locally, increase a critical resource, were carefully balanced and taken into consideration by the supervisors.

Today’s environmental and economic conditions demand that we and our leaders have the courage to look through a 21st-century lens to plan, regulate and execute to address our needs and to prepare for future generations.

LVCC believes that strengthening the reliability of energy resources, especially that which is clean and renewable, is critical to a sustainable and resilient economy.

Our demand on energy resources is not currently met within our city, county or Bay Area region, but imported from other parts of California and the western U.S.

As we move towards a future of increased electrification — vehicles, homes, commercial and industrial — the Aramis project presents us with an incredible opportunity that deserved serious consideration.

LVCC respects the views of those that expressed opposition to the approval of the Aramis project. With the Livermore Valley’s plentiful space and sunshine, LVCC supports continuing the discussion to include all at the table, as together we seek a balanced approach towards increasing this important local resource.

Board OKs utility-scale solar in North Livermore

By David Rounds

It only took Dave Haubert, District 1’s new supervisor, two months to break a significant, big campaign promise. Vowing during the run up to the election to favor the creation of a “solar siting policy” before approving utility-scale solar, Haubert led the 5-0 vote by the Board of Supervisors to approve the Aramis project earlier this month.

Vowing to continue to “work” on a solar policy, the environmental and legal flaws of this project were dismissed by the supervisors. Next month will be an appeal hearing and vote on a second utility-scale solar plant, across the street from the Aramis project. A solar policy will not be in place by that time. Does anyone question the vote of Haubert and the supervisors?

Once this second project is approved, developing a solar siting policy should be easy for Haubert and the supervisors … put it in the now-industrialized North Livermore Valley. The disregard for violations of General Plan zoning, proven environmental impacts and the general inappropriateness of siting this solar factory in North Livermore was discouraging, but not unexpected from a Board of Supervisors who have never accepted the protections to open, scenic and agricultural land offered by Measure D.

How could they justify this decision? They did it by making this a zero-sum choice. Save the environment for our grandchildren or have open space. This ridiculously simplified overstatement is a cop out that is going to become the “de rigueur” for solar developers and politicians. Supervisors are not elected to just make tough decisions; they are elected to make smart decisions and be leaders.

Options abound for Alameda County to develop clean energy sources that do not require covering existing agricultural lands and open space. Are those options, “turn key,” like this Aramis proposal? No, but sometimes the right decision, impacting the most people, requires work, dedication and commitment. Unfortunately for citizens, it is much easier for the county to just give that work over to a for-profit developer.

Utility-scale solar energy factories can go many, many places in the county and the state, but they should not go everywhere. These decisions around our collective desire for clean energy must not be decided based on a developer’s plan and willing land owners, especially when one environmental consideration is being sacrificed for another.