Special Sections : Wind Energy

Wednesday, Jun 29 2011 11:38 AM

Terra Gen pulls the plug on Pahnamid project

Terra-Gen Power announced last week that it is withdrawing its rezoning application for the controversial 7,106-acre Pahnamid Wind Energy project in the Tehachapi Mountains.

Kern County issued a Notice of Preparation for the project on April 6, and opposition to the proposed project spread like the wind throughout the mountain communities.

“After consulting with Supervisor Scrivner, the County Planning Department, and relevant agencies, Terra-Gen is withdrawing the rezoning application for Pahnamid,” a statement issued June 23 by Randy Hoyle, Vice President and head of wind development, from the San Diego office of Terra-Gen Power, LLC. 

Hoyle declined to comment further.

Phil Wyman, a principal in the family-owned Antelope Canyon Ranch on which many of the proposed 137 wind turbines would have been sited, did not return calls from the Tehachapi News.

Kern County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt said that once a project application has been withdrawn by the developer it cannot be re-activated.

“This means there will be no EIR, no public hearings, no further discussion on this project,” Oviatt said.

Oviatt said the planning department is sending out thank you letters to all parties that have submitted comments on the project. 

“For the early stages of a project, this was a significant response,” Oviatt said.  

In an opinion piece published in the May 17 edition of the Tehachapi News, Supervisor Scrivner said he “Would not support placing turbines on the ridgeline that are within clear view of the City of Tehachapi.”

Following Terra-Gen’s withdrawal, Scrivner said the Pahnamid project “has caused a large public outcry,” in stark contrast to the area’s decades long support of local alternative energy and the economic benefits the wind industry brings to the county. 

“It is my opinon that the Pahnamid Project’s proposed turbine placement was not in line with the character of the Tehachapi Valley,” Scrivner said. “I am pleased that Terra-Gen has taken my concerns, those of the County Planning and Community Development Department, and the community into consideration and made the decision to formally withdraw the proposed re-zoning application for the Pahnamid Project.”

Community organizer Bob Moran, of Save Tehachapi Mountain, a group opposed to the Pahnamid project, said he’s pleased that Scrivner and various local agencies listened to and supported the community members that would be directly affected by such a project.

“This is great news for all of our Tehachapi Mountain communities. It shows that common sense prevailed,” Moran said. “It allows all of us to retain our ‘quality of life,’ our property values, and have the security that one of those large machines won’t catch fire a potentially burn out one or more of our communities.”

Moran continued, “I would like to thank the Kern County Planning Department and all of our Kern County Supervisors for their concern for the Tehachapi residents. Also for Tehachapi News covering this story in an unbiased way.”

Terry Case, 75, has been a resident of Water Canyon for 37 years. Case said she was involved in a grass roots campaign to halt Lancaster from becoming the next LAX in 1963, and she felt the Pahnamid project would have wrought even worse consequences.

“I’m flying. I am so happy,” Case said during a phone call to the Tehachapi News to confirm that Terra-Gen had withdrawn its zoning change application for the Pahnamid wind project.

“I have lived seven tenths of a mile up Water Canyon since 1975 and it is the most delicious, wonderful, marvelous outdoor place to live. That project would destroy us and take away all of the beauty… it would just trash us,” Case said.

While gratified that Pahnamid has been halted, Moran said there’s still a need to be diligent about other pending wind energy projects in the area.

“Now let us not forget our neighbors in Sand Canyon who also face a crisis at their community entrance,” Moran said.

Tehachapi’s mayor, Ed Grimes, said Terra-Gen deserves credit for listening to the community.

“The people didn’t want it. It was too encroaching on the city,” Grimes said. “I think Terra-Gen read between the lines.”

He continued, “They’ve done a lot of business in the community. I think they appreciate the people in Tehachapi.”

Tehachapi City Manager Greg Garrett said he is also pleased with Terra-Gen’s decision to withdraw.
“For decades, Tehachapi has supported and been at the forefront of wind energy development,” Garrett said. “Recently however, residents, the city council and many others have expressed concern with the proposed developments and their potential encroachment on the beautiful natural setting in our community.

“While we understand that wind energy investment is beneficial to our regional economy, we are firm in our belief that Tehachapi’s identity is not built upon alternative energies alone but is more wholly dependent upon our beautiful mountain setting.” 

Garrett continued, “We are looking forward to continuing our collaboration with the County of Kern and all of the other stakeholders to ensure that alternative energy technologies can be responsibly and effectively pursued within our region.”

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