Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs!

That is exactly how I felt as I walked up to the podium this afternoon when the
public comment period began at the DRECP Stakeholder Steering committee
meeting at the Ontario Convention Center, Room 104B.

All the way up as I drove, I mentally rehearsed what I would say knowing that I
would probably have less than a minute to say my piece and sit back down. Also
since I figured that there would be a big parking fee, I had to look around in strange
territory for an atm.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I drove up to the parking attendant and
found out that my parking was comped by the state, alright!

Anyway I arrived around 1300 and was standing outside trying to figure out if I should slink in, when a young man advised me that it was okay to just go in and find a seat. So I sat
out in the audience in my desert rat hat, inconspicuous I am sure, listening in as the
large panel discussed various issues regarding the DRECP report and the process. I got
to hand it to them, those people seem to really know their stuff. A gentleman for the
state CEC talked about the new mapping that was in progress, with connectivity, etc- I
am sure they were probably talking about wildlife corridors and I remember another
gentleman on the panel talking about not mapping exact areas of cultural interest due to chances that vandals might go right out and loot the sites(my words here, he didn’t say
looting but I am sure that is exactly what would occur)-all in all kind of interesting
bureaucratize.

There was a moment of levity when they were discussing the next meeting date to be on
October 13 at the same location, and one of the panelists, possibly the chairman pointed
out that this was the same day as a big solar conference, one of the solar reps on the
panel quickly pointed out that she had no problem with the committee choosing that date.

Anyway the meeting moved right along and actually before the scheduled time of 1430 they
began the public comment period. The chairman said that a Bill Mcdonald had requested
to speak to the committee and was he present. So I stood up and made my way over to
the podium, kind of like a condemned man making his way to the gallows, that’s how
nervous I was. Evidently I had forgotten how nervous public speaking made me in school,
after all that was decades ago but I remembered real fast once I stepped up to the microphone!

After sitting in the audience for over an hour and watching and listening to everything, I
instantly made the decision to throw off the back porch, remarks that I had practiced
all the way from the OC to the Ontario airport area. I don’t remember exactly what I
said but it went something like this:” My name is Bill Mcdonald. I am a bus driver and I
am a blogger known as Morongobill on the internet. I would like to thank the committee
for allowing me this opportunity to comment today. As an environmental activist, I would
like to say that I was pleased with their report just released for the public, especially as it
mentioned the “no regrets” siting of these plants on disturbed land first. But that my
problem was with the timing, now that the Ivanpah SEGS and other projects were about
to be approved I was sure any day, why couldn’t this report have come out a couple of
months or so ago? I said that what we were talking about here was death(I may have
mentioned it twice)- death to many animals and plants. I thanked the committee and sat
back down.

Nervous doesn’t begin to describe how I felt and probably how I sounded up
there at the podium. But I felt good for saying it, because really we are talking
life and death here, maybe not for us humans, but for sure for the animals and
plants who call these energy sites home.

I was followed by 5 or 6 others I believe, including a young man from the National Parks
Conservation Society, I believe, who brought a notebook up that he had written his
remarks down in, I though that is so smart, why didn’t I think of that? Next time I will. He
pointed out why should we think first of using pristine desert habitat, or words similar,
when we site these plants, excellent point, why do the policy makers think sites like
Ivanpah first, before even considering brownfields or disturbed land?

I thought all the public commentors made good points, however I was very surprised
that no one called in a comment. I think the panelists were as well.

There was an interesting moment when the lady representing the Sierra Club told the
panel about a call she made to the Dept of Conservation about the problems that
Abengoa was having getting their plant approved near Barstow I believe. The problem
was that the state was saying they would need to replace this valuable farm land replaced on a 1:1 basis, despite the fact it hadn’t been farmed in ages, in fact it is not far from an existing solar project, but that after a conversation with the SC,
the state shrunk down that mitigation requirement from over 1500 acres(this is
from my memory which isn’t perfect) to just a couple or hundred or so acres, which would be better financially for Abengoa.

After the meeting was over, I walked up to the SC rep and mentioned how that was really
good, the help to get that Abengoa project back on track, introduced myself and said something to the effect that I was the blogger who pointed out their rooftop was solar free.
Evidently she hadn’t heard of that little incident, wonder how the conversation would have
went if she had seen that post?

I was pleased to meet a couple of people there who are involved in the environmental
community, not the carbonmental community and was made to feel welcome. One said he
has followed my blog, which I must admit was good to hear.

Who knows what is in the future but I will say that it is a feeling of accomplishment to
attend one of these shindigs and get to say your piece. I don’t think I changed any
minds and I probably came across as not much of a public speaker, but next time I
think that I will do much better. I sure will write my notes down next time, if nothing else
to help overcome a case of the nerves.

The whole point is folks that I have never done anything like this before and I survived.
You can get involved too. These folks are having another meeting in October, maybe the
13th, and while not many people can drive out like I did, a few of you sure can call in on
a toll-free number! You get time to say your piece, I didn’t see anybody looking at their
watches pointedly, and then the next person can speak. Try it, you might like it and
become an activist yourself. We need all the help we can get right now.

Thanks for reading this and I will se about getting the information to you in a timely
fashion before the next meeting.

By the way, my impression of this committee was that they seem to know their stuff, all
the members got a chance to speak as well as the public, and they seemed to be trying
to get this report finalized and released in a timely fashion. My only concern of the
moment was why the report wasn’t released some time ago, prior to the CEC deciding
Ivanpah SEGS among others.

Something to think about for sure.

Morongobill

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