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Why Doesn’t Alameda County Have a Solar Policy?

Contra Costa and Santa Clara Counties have solar policies for rural areas. Alameda County started working on a solar policy in 2011 and still does not have one. We explain what occurred in a Facebook Note.

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Farmers, Ranchers and Environmental Groups File Lawsuit To Stop Conversion Of Agricultural Land In North Livermore Valley Into An Industrial Solar Plant

April 21, 2021 – The grassroots organization Save North Livermore Valley, joined by Friends of Open Space and Vineyards and the Ohlone Audubon, served a petition for writ of mandate yesterday on Alameda County challenging the Board of Supervisors’ March 4, 2021, approval of the Aramis solar project. 

The Aramis project proposes to convert hundreds of acres of actively-used and environmentally important agricultural land in North Livermore Valley into an industrial solar power plant and battery storage complex.

“Twenty-one years ago, 63,000 Alameda County residents placed Measure D on the ballot to safeguard and preserve the agricultural land and open space of East Alameda County, including North Livermore Valley. The voters overwhelmingly supported Measure D, despite an effort by the Supervisors to defeat the measure. It constitutes the greatest environmental achievement in our county’s history,” stated Chris O’Brien, chairperson of the Save North Livermore Valley steering committee.

“The Board of Supervisors is now attempting to overturn Measure D by authorizing the industrial development of North Livermore Valley. Instead, the Board of Supervisors should respect the will of the voters and follow county and state law.”

The lawsuit alleges that the County’s approval of the Aramis project violates: 1) Measure D; 2) the Alameda County General Plan and its East County Area Plan; 3) the Alameda County Code of Ordinances; 4) the California Government Code; and 5) the California Environmental Quality Act and its Guidelines.

“Twenty years ago our organization supported the passage of Measure D because we recognized the value of protecting open space and agricultural lands in Eastern Alameda County,” stated Tamara Reus, President of the Board of Directors of Friends of Open Space and Vineyards. “North Livermore is particularly important in terms of its heritage of grazing cattle, scenic areas, and habitat for threatened and endangered species. While we support the need for renewable energy to combat climate change, we cannot justify allowing solar projects to destroy the environment in the name of protecting it.”

“Sadly, by approving the massive Aramis project, the Supervisors have forced residents to bring a lawsuit against our own county government,” O’Brien added. “Litigation is expensive. We ask for the public to contribute to our GoFundMe litigation fund at https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-north-livermore-valley. Every donation is vital in our effort to preserving the irreplaceable agricultural land, open space and wildlife habitat of North Livermore Valley today and for future generations.”


Go Fund Me Campaign Launched To Support Lawsuit To Overturn County’s Approval Of Industrial Solar Power Plants In Agricultural Districts

March 19, 2021 – The grassroots advocacy group Save North Livermore Valley has commenced a Go Fund Me campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-north-livermore-valley  to fund a lawsuit to overturn Alameda County’s approval of the massive Aramis industrial solar power plant. 100% of all donations will go to the Save North Livermore Valley litigation fund.

“Our Supervisors have failed us. The only way to stop the conversion of North Livermore Valley into a barren landscape of steel, glass and silicon is to file a lawsuit,” stated Chris O’Brien, chairperson of the Save North Livermore Valley steering committee. “I ask that all persons that care about preserving the agricultural heritage of Livermore Valley and East Alameda County contribute to the litigation fund. We, the members of the community, must provide the leadership necessary to safeguard our precious open space, scenic vistas and habitat for endangered and threatened species today and for future generations.”

While Save North Livermore Valley cannot offer any prediction on the outcome of a lawsuit, we strongly believe in the strength of our legal arguments. We will argue that Alameda County’s approval of the solar projects violates state environmental law, the county’s own General Plan and Zoning Code, and voter-approved initiative Measure D which preserves open space and agricultural land in rural Alameda County.

Thanks to a handful of generous donations collected so far, Save North Livermore Valley has enough to file and pursue a lawsuit. But, litigation can be complicated and often includes unexpected costs. We are seeking donations to ensure that we have all expenses covered and can take the lawsuit to the finish line

“The financial burden of the litigation need not fall too heavily on any of us. We just all must step forward. If 1,000 people will each donate $100, or 500 persons each donate $200, we will quickly reach the goal set for the Go Fund Me campaign,” added Chris O’Brien.


Significant And Unavoidable Adverse Environmental Impact of Aramis Project Remains Despite Recent Concession by Intersect Power

February 26, 2021 – In response to Intersect Power’s admission earlier this week that it will seek “take permits” for the likely harm to threatened species the project will cause, as had been directed separately by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on October 30, 2020, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on January 26, 2021, Save North Livermore Valley emphasizes that the project still poses a significant and unavoidable harm to the environment.

“Intersect has made a reluctant and long overdue admission that, if their project goes forward, the company must follow the law and compensate for harming threatened species and removing their habitat. It is unfortunate that it took Intersect so long to concede that the company would simply follow the law,” said Karen Swaim, a local expert biologist who has closely studied the project. “Intersect’s turnaround shows the important role that wildlife agencies – and local volunteer experts like myself – play in keeping companies honest. Had watchdogs not sounded the alarm about the proposed project’s serious environmental damage, the company would not have compensated for the loss of important, threatened native Californian species and their habitats.”

“Intersect’s admission that it will respect the law does not change the conclusion of the company’s own environmental impact report, which states that the project will impose ‘significant and unavoidable’ environmental impacts on North Livermore,” said Robert Selna, an attorney representing Save North Livermore Valley, a coalition of famers, ranchers and environmentalists.

Alameda County still must do what its neighboring counties have already done: complete a Solar Mapping Project to identify “least conflict areas” where solar development is suitable and likely to have fewer adverse impacts on agriculture, wildlife habitat, open space and scenic resources before approving any individual solar facilities. This work is critical to maintaining the biodiversity of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. In a recent OpEd published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Selna explains further why Alameda County should complete a solar map.  

On Thursday, March 4, 2021, at 9 a.m., the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will hear the separate appeals by Save North Livermore, Friends of Livermore and Friends of Open Space and Vineyards to the approval of the Aramis industrial solar project by the Board of Zoning Adjustments. The meeting will occur by Zoom at the following link: https://zoom.us/j/93981572808


Presence Of Threatened California Tiger Salamander Next To Aramis Project Site Highlights Major Flaws In Project’s Environmental Impact Report

February 23, 2021 – Multiple California tiger salamander sightings near the proposed Aramis solar project in North Livermore Valley reinforce that the area is home to threatened species and raise additional concerns about the project’s environmental impacts.

In one recent example, wildlife biologist Karen Swaim identified a juvenile California tiger salamander heading in a westward direction on North Livermore Avenue near its terminus at Manning Road and next to the main parcel for the proposed Aramis industrial solar plant. The sighting occurred during a nighttime rainstorm on February 11, 2021.

“Due to the many documented occurrences of the California tiger salamander in every direction near the Aramis project site, and 15 confirmed breeding sites within the dispersal area of the salamander and the Aramis project, it has always been clear that the California tiger salamander was highly likely to be present at the site,” Swaim stated. “The detection of a juvenile California tiger salamander within 25 feet of and headed toward the site conclusively demonstrates its presence. This would be no surprise to anyone who has any understanding of the local conditions and understanding of the species ecology. I’d call it a no-brainer.” 

“The Aramis project proponents have tried to pass the site off as some disturbed wasteland they will enhance for wildlife. That’s a ludicrous assertion,” Swain explained. “It is grazing land for cattle, a land use that is highly compatible with the California tiger salamander. In fact, cattle are a major habitat management tool for this species. We should thank ranchers for the California tiger salamander remaining in such abundance in the North Livermore Valley.

“Even land in hay production can often provide upland habitat of value for California tiger salamander as it is not a barrier to dispersal and migration and often still supports healthy rodent populations, as does the proposed solar field north of Manning Avenue,” Swaim added. “The presence of California tiger salamander in lands in hay production is well documented.”

“Habitat destruction is the primary threat to the California tiger salamander,” Swaim stated. “For the species to survive we must vigorously safeguard their habitat. North Livermore Valley, with its ground-squirrel and gopher burrows, intact rangeland grazed by cattle and nearby nature preserves with vernal pools, is an ideal habitat for the California tiger salamander as well as the burrowing owl and golden eagle, to name just a few of the species that the Aramis project will negatively impact.”

The Aramis Project’s environmental impact report (EIR) found that the conversion of over 350 acres of grassland and cropland into a solar generation facility would not significantly impact the threatened California tiger salamander because there was “only a low potential” for the amphibian to be present at the site.

Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, however, determined that there were numerous deficiencies in the Aramis EIR, including its finding that the solar plant would not significantly impact the California tiger salamander. Moreover, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service observed that cattle grazing on the type of land present at the Aramis project site “is a highly compatible land use” and enhances the habitat for the California tiger salamander. 

About the California Tiger Salamander

Designated a threatened species by federal and state environmental agencies, California tiger salamanders spend most of their lives underground. Once fall and winter rains begin, adult California tiger salamanders emerge from underground to migrate to vernal pools to breed and lay their eggs. These pools fill with water in the winter and often dry out by summer.

Adults may migrate long distances, over a mile, to breed.  After metamorphosis, juvenile California tiger salamanders may roam up to two miles away from their natal pools through grasslands to find underground burrows. 


East Bay Environmental Opposition to Aramis Industrial Solar Plant Grows

February 16, 2021 – The Alameda Creek Alliance and Ohlone Audubon Society recently joined four other leading East Bay nonprofit environmental organizations in opposing the massive Aramis industrial solar plant proposed for environmentally important agricultural land in North Livermore Valley, Save North Livermore Valley announced today.

In addition to the Alameda Creek Alliance and Ohlone Audubon Society, East Bay environmental organizations opposed to the Aramis Project include:
  • Friends of Livermore,
  • Friends of Open Space and Vineyards,
  • Golden Gate Audubon Society, and
  • Friends of Springtown Preserve

“The Alameda Creek Alliance opposes the Aramis industrial solar plant, which is poorly sited. It would occupy land immediately adjacent to Cayetano Creek which is designated as Water Management land under the Alameda County zoning code,” stated Jeff Miller, President of the Alameda Creek Alliance. “Solar projects are not permitted on Water Management land. The Aramis Project would be detrimental for Cayetano Creek and set a bad precedent allowing further industrial-scale development next to creeks in other rural areas of Alameda County.”

“The Alameda Creek Alliance support distributed urban and rooftop solar to meet green energy needs, rather than siting industrial-scale solar plants on dwindling open space, wildlife habitat, and agricultural lands in the county,” Miller added.

The Ohlone Audubon Society advocates for the protection of birds and their habitats in Southern and Eastern Alameda County. Its opposition to the Aramis Project follows similar opposition to the project from the Golden Gate Audubon, which focuses on protecting native birds and other wildlife species in the San Francisco Bay Area, particularly in San Francisco and western Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. The Golden Gate Audubon Society found that the biological surveys in the Aramis Project’s environmental report were “inadequate” and that the project “will permanently alter over 500 acres of critical habitat” for multiple threatened bird species.

“We are grateful for the support of the Alameda Creek Alliance and Ohlone Audubon Society to preserving the open space and natural habitat of North Livermore Valley. It is one of the last undeveloped and productive agricultural areas remaining in Alameda County,” stated Merlin Newton of the Save North Livermore Valley steering committee. “As important as it is to expand renewable energy to address climate change, it’s equally important to preserve the biodiversity of our planet. We shoot ourselves in the foot if we destroy our environment in an attempt to save it.”

Moreover, every environmental public agency that examined the Aramis Project found the project’s environmental impact report is deficient and that sensitive species will be harmed or killed if the project is built. These public agencies are:

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife,
  • East Bay Regional Park District, and
  • San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality District.

The Aramis project will convert hundreds of acres of North Livermore Valley into an industrial zone. No solar power plant of the magnitude of the Aramis project exists in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over 270,000 eight-foot-tall solar panels will spread across approximately 350 acres of agricultural. Miles of new internal access roads, security fences, and overhead electrical transmission lines, some on towers 10 stories high, will be constructed. On five acres, the land will be excavated, and concrete will be poured to serve as the foundation for a new electrical power station, water tanks and scores of trailer-truck size lithium-ion battery stations.


Alameda County Board of Supervisors’ Hearing On Controversial Aramis Industrial Solar Project Delayed

February 5, 2021 – Alameda County Planning Director Albert Lopez announced today that a Board of Supervisors hearing on the massive Aramis solar and battery complex proposed for North Livermore agricultural land and open space has been rescheduled to March 4, 2021.

The delay follows several recent setbacks suffered by Intersect Power, the private energy company behind the Aramis Project, including:

  • On January 26, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a scathing lettercriticizing the Environmental Impact Report prepared for the project and concluded that the plant will likely result in the injury and death of multiple threatened and federally-protect species. A common mitigation for such an impact on species is land dedication elsewhere, but, so far, Aramis representatives have agreed to no such compensation.
  • On January 7, 2021, Aramis representatives were informed that development would lose another 38 acres from a project already reduced significantly. Once 410 acres, the project is now down to 339. Aramis representatives have said that the project cannot not reach economies of scale unless it is approximately 400 acres.
  • In addition, legal counsel for elderly North Livermore Valley residents Leland Richard Stanley and Mary Stanley issued a letter to Intersect Power to immediately cease-and-desist from entering the Stanley’s property or contacting the Stanleys except through legal counsel.In December 2020, as alleged in a letter to Alameda County Counsel from counsel for the Stanleys, Intersect Power representatives engaged in “horrifying” behavior in seeking to induce the Stanleys to sign a lease over the course of 5-hour meeting at the Stanley’s home, and including offering cash incentives.

“This project has been headed in the wrong direction for a long time. We’ve have been working with the County Agricultural Advisory Committee to create guidelines for solar in East County, which would support clean energy while preserving the natural environment. The Aramis project fails at that commonsense goal. So, I’m not surprised that it appears to be struggling,” stated Merlin Newton, Sr., a member of Save North Livermore Valley steering committee.


U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Concludes Threatened Species Likely To Be Injured Or Killed During Construction And Operation Of Aramis Industrial Solar Project 
– USF&WS Identified the California Red-Legged Frog, California Tiger Salamander and San Joaquin Kit Fox As Species At Risk From Aramis Project

January 28, 2021 – The California red-legged frog, the California tiger salamander and the San Joaquin kit fox, all threatened species under federal law, are likely to be injured or killed during construction and operation of the Aramis industrial solar power plant proposed for North Livermore Valley, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USF&WS”) states in a new letter  to the Alameda County Planning Department.

As a result, Intersect Power, the company behind the massive Aramis project, must submit a habitat conservation plan that minimizes and mitigates harm to the impacted species and obtain “an incidental take permit” from the federal agency prior to commencing construction. Furthermore, to address the permanent habitat loss from the Aramis project, the USF&WS calls for “permanent habitat conservation as a mitigation measure.” To date, Intersect Power has steadfastly refused to offer any compensatory mitigation for the Aramis project’s destruction of habitat for threatened species.

Multiple environmental organizations and public agencies, including the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, East Bay Regional Park District , Golden Gate Audubon Society and Save Mount Diablo, that have closely examined the Aramis project have found Intersect Power and Alameda County planners failed to acknowledge and account for the project’s significant and negative impact on several threatened species, according to Chris O’Brien, chair of the Save North Livermore Valley steering committee.

“The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has now added its authoritative voice to the debate and reached the same conclusion as other public agencies that the environmental review of the Aramis project has been deficient. Injuring and killing endangered foxes, frogs and salamanders is obviously not the path Alameda County should take in seeking to achieve its clean energy goals. The Board of Supervisors needs to bring this deeply flawed project and process to an end,” O’Brien said.

Michael Fredrich of Friends of Livermore, a nonprofit environmental protection and good government group, had the following to say: “From the beginning, Alameda County has failed to apply common sense and sound public policy in reviewing the Aramis solar project. Unlike neighboring Contra Costa and Santa Clara Counties, Alameda County has not amended its General Plan to authorize utility scale solar power facilities solely in rural areas where they would pose the least conflict with wildlife habitat, open space, agricultural land and scenic resources, as well as comply with voter-approved Measure D. Instead, Alameda County worked closely with Intersect Power to advance the Aramis project in North Livermore Valley – where it is abundantly clear that massive industrial solar power plants should not be located.”

Fredrich added, “The letter from the USF&WS serves as further evidence of the environmental destruction the Aramis project will inflict. The Board of Supervisors should reject the Aramis project and instruct planning staff to complete a long-promised and delayed comprehensive solar policy for the East County.”

A copy of the USF&WS letter can be found on the Save North Livermore Valley website here.


Property Owner Says Aramis Representatives Induced Him to Sign Conditional Use Permit (CUP) Application

January 12, 2021 – A letter to the Alameda County Counsel says Aramis solar project representatives induced an elderly North Livermore landowner to consent to a permit application and later tried to persuade the owner to sign a lease absent important legal details.

“Perhaps most horrifying…Aramis/Intersect sent our clients, directly, without advising us, an execution-ready set of documents to sign. This document rejected virtually all of the comments that we as counsel for the Stanleys had provided….,” wrote Jacqueline M. Phillips, counsel for landowner Leland Richard Stanley.

Phillips’ January 11th letter  followed a January 7th letter informing an Aramis’s lawyer that lease negotiations between Aramis and Stanley had been formally terminated, and instructing Intersect Power (the Aramis Project parent company) not to violate California Rule of Professional Conduct 4.2 and California’s criminal elder abuse statute.

The Stanley property is located at 4400 North Livermore Avenue. The Aramis project application and maps included 100 acres of the Stanley property; 38 acres were for development. The permit nullification and lease termination represent a major setback just weeks before an expected hearing at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and bring to light Aramis’ purportedly improper tactics.

The decision of Stanley, who, according to the January 11th letter, is approaching his seventies, to remove consent for the permit – and the lease termination – will likely cause project delays if not outright cancellation. The formerly 400-acre project had been fast-tracked by the county despite concerns about environmental impacts, violation of a voter initiative, and conflicts with land use laws. Aramis representatives have said the project is economically viable only at its original size.

der abuse


 

Loss of Acreage Places Aramis Industrial Solar Power Project in Serious Doubt
January 12, 2021 – A recent letter to the attorney for the Aramis utility-scale solar power plant terminates lease negotiations for a substantial portion of the project, representing a major setback just weeks before an expected hearing at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

The strongly-worded letter from the lawyer for property owner, Leland Richard Stanley, became public record when it was received by the Alameda County Planning Department. The lease termination will likely cause project delays if not outright cancellation. The formerly 400-acre project had been fast-tracked by the county despite concerns about environmental impacts, violation of a voter initiative, and conflicts with land use laws.  

The Stanley Ranch is located at 4400 North Livermore Avenue. Intersect Power (the company behind the Aramis project) included 38 acres of the Stanley property in its project application and maps, but the January 7 Stanley attorney letter states that Intersect Power has never had a lease for the Stanley property. This means that the Aramis project description slated to go before the Board of Supervisors is now inaccurate.

“It is remarkable that Intersect would indicate it had secured all the property to develop its Aramis project when that clearly was not the case. This casts doubt on all other assurances Intersect Power has made concerning the project,” stated Chris O’Brien, chair of the Save North Livermore Valley steering committee.

“Given how much the project has changed, if Intersect Power still wants to move forward, it will have to submit an amended permit application and undergo a revised environmental study,” said O’Brien. “This simply is no longer the same project that hundreds of concerned citizens – and the East County Board of Zoning Adjustments – reviewed – and it cannot go to the Board of Supervisors as-is.”

“If anything Intersect Power says can be taken seriously, the loss of the Stanley property also means the Aramis project is no longer economically viable. Marisa Mitchell of Intersect Power has stated publicly on numerous occasions that the Aramis project needs all of its planned acreage for the project to work,” stated Robert Selna, legal counsel for Save North Livermore Valley.

The Stanley attorney letter goes beyond just terminating lease negotiations. It instructs Intersect Power, its employees and agents “to immediately cease and desist from entering” upon the Stanley Ranch and from contacting the Stanley’s except through legal counsel.  The letter further instructs Intersect Power not to violate California Rule of Professional Conduct 4.2 and California’s criminal elder abuse statute.


Statement on Continuance of Hearing by Board of Supervisors on Aramis Industrial Solar Power Plant

December 22, 2020 – The Alameda County Planning Department has announced the appeals by Save North Livermore Valley, Friends of Livermore and Friends of Open Space & Vineyards to the Board of Supervisors from the decision by Board of Zoning Adjustments to approve the Aramis project have been continued from January 12, 2021 to February 2021. The exact date has not yet been set.

In response, Chris O’Brien on behalf of Save North Livermore Valley issued the following statement:

“We are pleased that Intersect Power will no longer be allowed to rush the review of its massive Aramis industrial solar power plant proposed for the scenic North Livermore Valley, an area specifically designated by voters for the preservation of agriculture and open space.

We also support Supervisor-elect David Haubert’s common sense approach to solar in East County. Supervisor-elect Haubert called for “a moratorium on the review of new solar plants on agricultural land until the County completes a comprehensive study and mapping project on the appropriate siting, scale, and operation of solar power plants, if any, on agricultural land, and incorporates this work in a solar ordinance and General Plan Amendment.” Haubert’s position helps ensure that we do not destroy the environment in our effort to save it.

Furthermore, Haubert’s stance protects the will of Alameda County voters. Converting eastern Alameda County’s agricultural lands into industrial zones for the electricity generation – as Intersect desires – clearly violates voter-approved initiative Measure D. We look forward to working with Supervisor-elect Haubert and his new colleagues on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to defend Measure D’s environmental protections.”


Statement on Board of Zoning Adjustments Decision On Sunwalker Solar Project

December 11, 2020 –This photo shows the project area of the Sunwalker industrial solar power plant in the foreground (orange) with the larger Aramis plant (in red) to the west, divided by North Livermore Avenue.

Yesterday, two members of the Board of Zoning Adjustments gave the green light to the Sunwalker project. That’s only a preliminary decision. The ultimate decision maker is the Board of Supervisors.

In response to the decision by the Board of Zoning Adjustments, Chris O’Brien of Save North Livermore Valley issued the following statement:

“It was disappointing that the Board of Zoning Adjustments met again without present the member who previously questioned the propriety of constructing industrial solar facilities in North Livermore Valley. What is most disappointing, however, is the failure of the two commissioners who approved the Sunwalker project to consider the numerous and sound objections made by residents of North Livermore Valley and the City of Livermore and representatives of local environmental organizations.

Over 20 persons spoke at the hearing, and they all opposed the project. No one other than a representative from Sunwalker spoke in favor of the project.

The commissioners who voted in favor of the project should have explained why in their independent judgment the project complies with the law and serves the public interest. The public was owed this duty.

Save North Livermore Valley is determined to preserve our agricultural land and open space for future generations. We will not allow in a matter of mere weeks the destruction of land that has for centuries been used for farming and ranching and today is restricted under Measure D and other laws for agricultural uses only.

As we appealed the decision on the massive Aramis industrial solar power plant, we will appeal the decision of the Board of Zoning Adjustments on Sunwalker solar project to the Board of Supervisors.”


Save North Livermore Valley & Local Environmental Groups Appeal Aramis Solar Plant To Board of Supervisors

December 4, 2020 – Today, Save North Livermore Valley filed an appeal to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors from the decision by the Board of Zoning Adjustments approving the massive Aramis industrial solar power plant and lithium-ion battery station complex for agricultural land in North Livermore Valley. The local environmental advocacy organizations Friends of Livermore and Friends of Open Space and Vineyards also filed appeals. 

“The conflict over this project, including this appeal, could have been avoided had staff completed
policies indicating, among other things, the East County areas where industrial solar installations would have caused the least conflict with the natural environment,” Save North Livermore Valley stated in the appeal. “Many counties have completed similar work. In Alameda County such an effort was particularly relevant because in 2000 voters approved Measure D, which specifically protected agricultural land and open space in East County and prioritized the North Livermore Valley for cultivated agriculture. One obvious location NOT to site solar installations would have been areas – like the proposed Project site – that the General Plan had designated permanently as Scenic Rural Recreational Routes.”

Here are links to each appeal:

Save North Livermore Valley appeal

Friends of Open Space & Vineyards appeal

Friends of Livermore Appeal

 


 Statement on Board of Zoning Adjustments Decision on Aramis Industrial Solar Power Plant

November 25, 2020 – “The parties have known that any decision by the Board of Zoning Adjustments on the Aramis industrial solar power plant was subject to full review by the Board of Supervisors.Save North Livermore Valley will file an appeal,” said Chris O’Brien, chair of Save North Livermore Valley, a coalition of more than 250 residents of the valley and nearby cities with the support of local environmental organizations. “Alameda County wishes to expand renewable energy in its effort to fight climate change. We support this goal. We also know the endsdo not justify the means. The Aramis project egregiously violates Measure D and the county zoning code. And, the desire by county staff to support renewables has clouded their judgement.”

“Furthermore, the County has not undertaken work essential to achieving its climate change goals. The County lacks both a comprehensive solar policy and a map of locations suitable for solar facilities that pose the least conflict with open space, wildlife habitat, agricultural land and scenic corridors,” added O’Brien. “Based on the extensive comments and analysis by California Department of Fish and Wildlife, leading local environmental organizations, and wildlife biologists, North Livermore Valley could not be a worse location in Alameda County to construct a utility-scale solar facility.  The Aramis plant will destroy the habitat for numerous threatened and special status species. We are confident that the Board of Supervisors will carefully review the evidentiary record and come to the same conclusion.”


Save North Livermore Valley Requests Community to Call on County Officials to Preserve Agricultural Land and Open Space

November 17, 2020 – Chris O’Brien, a member of the steering committee for Save North Livermore Valley, stated today that Alameda County officials announced on Friday night, November 13, 2020, that they accelerated to Thanksgiving week the review of the environmental impact report for the Aramis industrial solar power plant and lithium-ion battery station complex proposed for North Livermore Valley and decision on whether or not to approve the project. A special meeting of the East County Board of Zoning Adjustments will occur on November 24, 2020, at 1:30 p.m.

“For months the corporate executives behind the massive Aramis project have denigrated the value of the agricultural land in North Livermore Valley, falsely claiming our soil is of poor quality and our land is rarely used for cattle grazing. Meanwhile, the public is unaware that these same executives plan on selling 75% of the power generated by the Aramis project to San Francisco electricity customers,” stated O’Brien. “The Aramis project is a monstrosity. It will destroy hundreds of acres of productive, environmentally important agricultural land and significantly and forever scar the scenic beauty of North Livermore Valley. Even a senior Alameda County planner concluded that the Aramis project does ‘not pass the laugh test’ for compliance with the Alameda County Zoning Code, Measure D and applicable environmental policies.”

“For over a century North Livermore Valley has been an agricultural community characterized by stunning views, open space and wildlife habitats. We are proud of our heritage as ranchers and farmers and take seriously our responsibility to care for and preserve the land for future generations,” added O’Brien. “We can still save our valley. We ask the community to speak at the upcoming meeting the East County Board of Zoning Adjustments and call on the board members to reject the project.”


Should North Livermore Valley Be Destroyed To Power San Francisco?

October 29, 2020No person alive today has a memory of Hetch Hetchy Valley before it was destroyed. Just a few miles south of and very much like Yosemite Valley, Hetch Hetchy Valley was regarded as one of the most beautiful valleys in the world.

Despite opposition from the Sierra Club and most of the nation’s leading newspapers, Congress allowed the City of San Francisco to destroy Hetch Hetchy Valley to supply water to San Franciscans. 

Today, another environmentally-important valley, North Livermore Valley, is at risk to meet the utility needs of San Francisco. North Livermore Valley is a picturesque landscape consisting of native grasslands, pasturelands, creeks and open fields, surrounded by rolling hills and distant mountains.

Intersect Power company seeks to construct the Aramis Solar Energy Generation and Storage facility on agricultural land and open space at the northern end of North Livermore Valley. Intersect Power is based in San Francisco and that is where most of the power from the Aramis plant will be sent. Seventy-five percent of the electricity generated by the Aramis plant is under contract to consumers in San Francisco. The remaining amount will be sold in the East Bay.  

Read more .


Alameda Supervisor Candidates Urge Moratorium on Utility-Scale Solar Projects on Agricultural Land

October 6, 2020 – Chris O’Brien of Save North Livermore Valley announced today that Fremont Council member Vinnie Bacon and Dublin Mayor David Haubert have agreed to the following joint statement: 

“We call on Alameda County Board of Supervisors to place a moratorium on the review of new solar power plants on agricultural land until the County completes a comprehensive study and mapping project on the appropriate siting, scale, and operation of solar power plants, if any, on agricultural land, and incorporates this work in a solar ordinance and General Plan Amendment. The East County Board of Zoning Adjustments for Alameda County should likewise defer review of any individual proposed utility-scale solar facilities.”

“The residents of North Livermore Valley deeply appreciate and thank Council member Bacon and Mayor Haubert for listening to our concerns. We are all committed to addressing climate change through the development of more solar power, but insist the County proceed in a thoughtful, environmentally sound manner,” stated O’Brien.

Bacon and Haubert are competing in the November 3, 2020 election to represent the residents of District 1 on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. District 1 includes North Livermore Valley and the Cities of Livermore, Dublin and Fremont.

Despite starting policy work in 2011, Alameda County still lacks a comprehensive plan for how to expand renewable energy in rural areas. In September 2020, Supervisor Scott Haggerty, whose term as Supervisor for District 1 ends in December, directed staff to restart the process of drafting a County solar policy. Supervisor Haggerty also directed staff not to apply the policy to two industrial solar power plants that have been proposed for agricultural land in North Livermore Valley.  

“Supervisor Haggerty is advocating for, in effect, a ‘carve out’ of the North Livermore Valley from any future County solar policy,” stated O’Brien. “This defies commonsense. The first location in rural Alameda County for new utility-scale solar power plants should not be the location that poses the greatest conflict with agriculture, natural habitat, open space and visual and scenic resources.”


Save North Livermore Valley, Friends of Livermore and Friends of Open Space & Vineyards Call For Moratorium On New Industrial Solar Power Plants Pending Completion Of A Comprehensive Solar Policy 

October 5, 2020 – North Livermore Valley has been saved as an agricultural community with stunning views of pasturelands, rolling hills and distant mountains.

Since the 1950s, the North Livermore Valley has been zoned for agricultural and rural residential uses. For nearly the same period, Alameda County has recognized North Livermore Avenue in its General Plan as a scenic corridor and sought to preserve the area’s outstanding scenic quality. In 2000, Alameda County voters approved Measure D which established an urban growth boundary to prevent sprawl from encroaching on the rural areas of east Alameda County, including North Livermore Valley.

Countless persons and organizations spanning decades have fought to preserve the agricultural land, open space, watershed and wildlife habitats, and scenic beauty of North Livermore Valley. Their work and inspiring success is now at risk from two proposed industrial solar power plants. 

The plants would dramatically and permanently alter a massive section of North Livermore Valley from open ranch and farmland into an industrial use – the commercial generation of electricity for sale to California’s energy grid. The alteration would gravely undermine Measure D.

Furthermore, if approved, the two projects would create the precedent that solar power plants qualify as appropriate use of agricultural land in all Alameda County. Over the next 10-15 years, the scarce remaining agricultural land in Alameda County could be lost forever.

We call on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to place a moratorium on the review of new solar power plants on agricultural land until the County completes a comprehensive study and mapping project to identify the appropriate siting, scale and operations of solar power plants, if any, on agricultural land, and incorporate the study findings in a solar ordinance and General Plan Amendment.

Likewise, the East County Board of Zoning Adjustments should defer review of any individual proposed utility-scale solar facilities on agricultural land until this work is completed.

We look forward to offering our input and participating with County staff in identifying the most efficient and environmentally sound ways to generate greater renewable energy in harmony with Measure D and other relevant standards and policies for rural areas.

Santa Clara County adopted a policy for utility-scale solar power plants on agricultural land in 2010. Contra Costa County did the same earlier this year. Without its own solar policy, Alameda County is needlessly pitting the preservation of agricultural land and open space against expanding renewable energy.

About Our Groups

Save North Livermore Valley is a grassroots group of local residents formed this year and committed to preserving our valley for future generations.

Founded in 2002, Friends of Livermore is dedicated to preserving the open space of Livermore Valley and was one of the principal proponents of Measure D.

Friends of Open Space and Vineyards, a nonprofit organization founded in 1981, supports the permanent protection of the Livermore Valley region’s open spaces and agricultural lands.

Public Agencies & Environmental Groups Critical of Aramis Project &/or County Planning Process

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Us

Visit our Contact Us page to ask us any questions, request a free Save Our Valley sign and join the effort to save our valley.

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