10:00 PM PST on Monday, November 29, 2010

By DAVID DANELSKI
The Press-Enterprise

A solar project approved last month on public land east of Barstow faces permitting delays because labor groups said the California Energy Commission failed to provide key environmental findings after making the decision.

The commission’s Oct. 28 vote to approve the 4,604-acre Calico Solar project remains intact. However, commission chairwoman Karen Douglas has since ordered that the decision not be effective until Wednesday, giving the agency time to resolve issues raised by the California Unions for Reliable Energy.

The commission’s original vote had been effective immediately. The California Unions argued in a Nov. 11 letter that the commission did not properly make public its findings about the environmental consequences of the project. The land, about 37 miles east of Barstow, would be covered with thousands of dish-shaped mirrors and provide electricity for as many as 500,000 homes.

The union organization contends the environmental finding was to have been available on Nov. 2. It was not made public until Nov. 12, after the group submitted its complaint, according to Douglas’ order.

PLANS PROCEED

A spokeswoman for developer Tessera Solar said the $2 billion project is still on track to be “shovel ready” by the end of the year, making it eligible for federal stimulus dollars covering up to 30 percent of construction costs.

“The project is shovel ready when it is approved, and this is a procedural change of date from Oct. 28 to Dec. 1,” Tessera spokeswoman Janette Coates said.

She added that Tessera can’t break ground anyway until financing is obtained.

More obstacles may face Tessera.

At its Dec. 1 meeting in Sacramento, the commission will review the California Unions concerns to see if the Oct. 28 approval should be reconsidered, a commission spokeswoman said.

In addition, the Sierra Club is considering legal action to stop the project, club attorney Gloria Smith stated Monday in an e-mail.

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