LOGO - Alameda County Seal

Alameda County — The Alameda County Superior Court judge hearing arguments to try to overturn the county’s approval of a 347-acre solar energy project in North Livermore Valley said Tuesday that he will issue his decision in about a week.

Judge Evelio Grillo indicated in a tentative ruling last month that he planned to reject claims in a lawsuit aimed at preventing Intersect Power’s solar development off Cayetano Creek from going forward, but continued this week to hear arguments to convince him otherwise.

In a short session Tuesday afternoon, an attorney for Save North Livermore Valley (SNLV), the Ohlone Audubon Society and the Friends of Open Space and Vineyards argued that Intersect Power’s project did not receive proper environmental impact consideration when the company reduced the site from 410 acres to 347 to gain Board of Supervisors’ approval.

The change increased the project’s density, attorney Steven Selna said.

“The mitigation measures preceded the reduction of 63 acres,” Selna argued. “That's precisely why it should have been recirculated because the mitigation measures did not address the change in circumstances, namely that this project was going to be roughly 20% smaller, and they were talking about how they needed to cram the 267,000 panels onto a smaller site.”

Selna stated that company officials said they could not generate 100 megawatts of power by decreasing the number of panels.

“What are the implications of cramming them on the site?” Selna asked. “We don't know.”

In an interview, Selna said the environmental review should address how the increased density of panels would affect grasslands underneath them, as well as the impact on birds and the habitat.

In other arguments Tuesday, Selna told the judge that the environmental review failed to adequately analyze water supply needs for the project. The county’s approval requires the project to create a buffer of olive trees and grapevines for life, but the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) ends after three years.

The EIR, Selna said, also failed to deal with how an abandoned oil well on the site would be dealt with.

Intersect Power hopes to build and operate a renewable energy project to generate and store 100 megawatts of power to light 25,000 Bay Area homes. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved the project March 24, 2021.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit believe solar power generation is necessary to combat climate change, but believe the Aramis facility will hurt the environment and natural habitat. They also contend its approval violated provisions of Measure D, the East County Area Plan (ECAP), and the General Plan’s Scenic Route and Open Space Elements.

Grillo said during a previous hearing that, should he rule for the county, the plaintiffs likely would appeal his decision to the California 1st District Court of Appeal. He added that the appellate judges might decide that voters should get the final word on the project.

Andrew Sabey, attorney for the county and Intersect Power, allowed Selna to do most of the talking during Tuesday’s short proceeding. He has previously commented in court that the judge’s tentative ruling in favor of his clients was correct.

Sabey did not respond to an email request for an interview.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs earlier this month filed a request with the judge to prevent Intersect Power from going forward with the project until he rules.

Sabey, who filed opposition to that, said it was unnecessary. He noted that if the groups appeal the possible decision in favor of the county, they could ask the appellate court for a stay.

“There's no intention right now to do anything on that property unless and until this litigation is over,” Sabey told the judge.