Eblast: February 6, 2016

  • MBCA’s 47th Annual Meeting and Local Energy Symposium a Success!
  • Great news for future of rooftop solar and net metering: CPUC ruling
  • 2016 MBCA Desert-Wise Living Landscape Tour: April 23 & April 24
  • Joining Forces: Plant to Paper Project - The Veterans Initiative in the Arts
  • Stop the Tower Campaign

WEMO OHV Travel Management Plan opposed


We’re off with a strong start in 2016!

Thanks to those who attended MBCA’s 47th Annual Meeting and Local Energy Symposium: Is Community Choice Aggregation the smart renewable energy option for the Morongo Basin on January 23rd. The program, co-sponsored by MBCA and the California Desert Coalition (CDC) featured Bill Powers, engineer and founder of the San Diego Energy District Foundation; Woody Hastings, the Renewable Energy Implementation Manager for the Center for Climate Protection in Santa Rosa; & Barbara Boswell, the Director of both Choice Energy and Finance Departments for the City of Lancaster.
As many as 100 attended the Symposium to learn how California communities are successfully using CCA (Community Choice Aggregation, authorized under California Assembly Bill 117) to buy energy for their citizens. The speakers showed how their communities evaluated CCAs to gain local control to purchase power directly from the sources of their choice. The CCA programs are administered by not-for-profit public agencies to redirect significant revenue streams from the large utilities, such as Southern California Edison. Benefits include lower energy rates for customers, a new direct revenue source, local jobs and greater reliance on renewable energy. Local programs such as public schools can be the beneficiaries of earnings. The excess power from rooftop solar installations can be utilized.
Bill Powers recapped a survey he conducted for the CDC to investigate the capacity of the Basin’s electrical infrastructure. He reported finding that the system has been updated and ready to support a CCA to supply renewable energy to customers, as well as receive input from local rooftop sources.
 
“The tool to get to net-zero is community-based aggregation,” said Barbara Boswell.
 
Frank Luckino, City Manager for the City of 29 Palms joined the panel for the final Q&A. When asked if CCA is a feasible option for the Morongo Basin, Luckino answered: We started out in individual conversations. What we are doing today is the first step, educating.
 
Woody Hasting blogged in Climate Changers on the Symposium & the Basin’s interest in CCA’s, noting: If the spirit of the Q&A period was any indication, there is a lot of promise for the Morongo Basin and surrounding area.”
 
MBCA heard praise about the Symposium, including…
Thank you MBCA et al for presenting another crucially important discussion about alternative energy opportunities our communities should know about. I learned a lot! The meeting was terrific! Tom O’Key, Joshua Tree resident
 
Thanks to the MBCA for the invaluable concern and service to our community. I am particularly interested in how our exploration of the CCA will help to bring opportunities and jobs to the region. Eric Quander, Commissioner Yucca Valley Parks, Recreation and Cultural Commission
 
Thanks also to the local media who attended the Symposium and reported:
* Radio KCDZ Z107.7 reporter Mike Lipsitz for his reporting.
* Hi-Desert Star reporter Hilary Sloan for her article.
 
Energy Symposium speakers’ PowerPoint presentations are archived at: mbconservation.com.
 
An “early bird” session sponsored by Bighorn-Desert View Water Agency invited elected officials, civic leaders, water agency managers and other stakeholders to meet with the panel to direct their questions about the CCA model. The group included County Supervisor, James Ramos; San Bernardino County Director of Land Use Services, Tom Hudson; State Senator Jean Fuller’s rep, Jim Schooler; Assemblyman, Chad Mayes; SANBAG (San Bernardino Area Government) representatives; City Manager for 29 Palms, Frank Luckino; Yucca Valley Town Mayor, Bob Leone; YV Councilman George Huntington; Yucca Valley Town Manager, Curtis Yakimow; and several Morongo Basin & Lucerne Valley MAC members.
 
The Energy Symposium is an example of the quality programming that MBCA brings to the community. Look for the Desert-Wise Living program to continue the focus on the Basin’s energy future.
 
Great news for future of rooftop solar and net metering: CPUC ruling
The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) stood up for clean power and for customers. The CPUC denied utility companies’ proposals for new monthly fees and demand charges for solar customers. Existing programs will remain in place to encourage businesses and homes to go solar. Solar customers will continue to be paid for their excess generation at full retail rates. The CPUC ruling also ensures that rooftop solar users will not have to pay for the upkeep of transmission lines. See the Desert Sun article, Jan. 28, 2016:
 
MARK YOUR CALENDARS for the
2016 MBCA Desert-Wise Living Landscape Tour: April 23 & April 24.
Yes, the Tour will be expanded over two week-end days this year – the West side of the Basin on Saturday, April 23nd, the East side on Sunday, April 24rd.
In coming weeks, details of the Tour and registration will be posted at mbconservation.org.
 
Joining Forces: Plant to Paper Project - The Veterans Initiative in the Arts
The Mojave Desert Land Trust announced the launch of their invasives initiative with two invasive plant removal events on MDLT properties. The invasive plants in these events will be repurposed specifically for use in papermaking and paper-casting workshops. MDLT is partnering with Mil-Tree in the larger, 5-month long The Veterans Initiative in the Arts - Joining Forces: Plant to Paper Project that will take place February – May with hikes to pull invasive plants, paper-making, art and writing workshops directed to veterans, active-duty military, their families, and the community at large. Events will take place locally in the Joshua Tree and 29 Palms areas and will culminate in an art exhibition at the 29 Palms Art Gallery. Learn about Mil-Tree on Facebook.
 
Invasive Pulls:
When: 8:30-10:30 AM Saturday, February 20th & Saturday, March 5th, 2016. (Dates may be subject to change based on weather and plant availability)
Where: meet at the Mojave Desert Land Trust at 8:15 AM.
60124 29 Palms Hwy, Joshua Tree. Carpool/caravan to nearby sites from there. 
RSVP: to sign-up & learn more about the invasive plant removal days, contact:
Kei Bjork at kei@mojavedesertlandtrust.org or call (760) 366-5440.
 
Specific locations and further details on the art and writing workshops will be announced by Mil-Tree and The Arts Connection.  Sign up for e-mail announcements at milltreecommunty@gmail.com.
 
Stop the Tower Campaign
Residents of Yucca Mesa are protesting a proposed 52’ tall cell tower disguised as a water tower (or perhaps a palm tree?!) to be sited in an area zoned residential, at Aberdeen & Sage. The tower will be surrounded by an 8’ wall around a 900 square foot enclosure housing a generator and cell equipment. Complaints include that the tower will negatively impact property values, be a public nuisance, and block views of Pipes Canyon. A petition directed to the Town of Yucca Valley Planning Commission (CUP 03-15) is being circulated in protest. For information, contact Mike & Debbie Howard: mywoody1@yahoo.com or (760) 365.6234.
 
WEMO OHV Travel Management Plan opposed
The comment period for the BLM’s Plan Amendment to the West Mojave (WEMO) OHV Travel Management Plan closed January 25th. MBCA submitted a detailed comment letter to the BLM about the proposed changes to the West Mojave Plan (WEMO), arguing against the Plan Amendment, particularly the preferred Alternative 3, as it "threatens our quality of life, property values, tourism economics, and public land conservation values by legalizing OHV riding on thousands of miles of dirt roads throughout our Morongo Basin and other area communities in the West Mojave."
 
MBCA's letter, written after extensive research by Pat Flanagan and with significant input from Marina West, includes our strong argument against the Amended Plan. It demonstrates how the BLM's plan flies in the face of the federal Small Tract Act with its intent to provide a comfortable framework for residential desert communities. 
 
Thanks to the Alliance for Responsible Recreation (ARR) and Community OHV Watch (COW) for outreach in several workshops and at Farmer’s Market tabling to mobilize community understanding of WEMO and making effective comment to the BLM.
 
In closing
I announced at the Annual Meeting that all members of the 2015 Board of Directors have agreed to extend their service. The officers will also extend their positions another year. We are pleased to welcome a new Director in 2016, Seth Shteir, who will bring his deep knowledge and perspective of national environmental issues to the Board. It promises to be a very good year.
 
Last, not Least: This is time to join MBCA or renew your membership! Remember, one great benefit of membership is the ticket price discount to the April Desert-Wise Living Landscape Tour! Strong membership numbers also strengthen MBCA’s position in comment letters to decision makers.

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