Enforcement paused on Panoche Valley Solar Farm

Decision made after four-hour closed session meeting

After spending hours in a closed door meeting Tuesday, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors decided to delay enforcement action against the operator of the Panoche Valley Solar Farm.

Officials met with representatives from ConEdison Development for nearly four hours during closed session at Tuesday’s special meeting. The item was then pulled from the agenda when the supervisors returned to open session.

It is unclear what was discussed or offered to make the county supervisors do an about-face.

At last week’s meeting, tensions flared over unpaid tax revenue and lack of local workers at the solar farm. After heated exchanges between the supervisors and a ConEdison Development representative, supervisors threatened to stop work at the site and began the process to enact a cease and desist work order.

The supervisors believe ConEdison Development is in breach of the development agreement because the company didn’t set up a business location in the unincorporated area of the county, resulting in a loss of both sales and property tax revenue.

San Benito County leaders have been upset for months over the solar project when it was announced earlier this summer that the solar farm would be cut from 247 megawatts to a current projected size of 127 megawatts.

The difference in estimated tax revenue fell from a high of $25.6 million to $8.9 million.

Additionally, a court settlement agreement between the energy company and environmental groups including the Sierra Club reduced the size of the project to around 1,300 acres. Over 26,000 acres will be preserved.

The decision to delay enforcement action on the Panoche Valley Solar Farm came at a unanimous 4-0 vote. Supervisor Robert Rivas was absent.

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