INLAND EMPIRE NEWS

The Rancho Santiago Community College District in Orange County (California) declared in a December 8, 2014 letter that it “unconditionally commits that it will cease, desist from, and not repeat the challenged past action…” That action involves secret dealings with unions.

A construction trade association was willing to threaten litigation to make this happen. And to emphasize its seriousness, the association also made an elected board member accountable to voters for his involvement in the secret dealings. That candidate ended up losing a key election for a California State Senate seat.

What was done wrong? While negotiating a Project Labor Agreement with construction trade unions for future construction contracts, the elected board of trustees for this community college district appeared to violate state law requiring government entities to give public access to its deliberations and actions. The board discussed the proposed content of the Project Labor Agreement in closed session meetings. The public could not know what was happening.

California construction trade unions seemed to be encouraging local governments to discuss embarrassing Project Labor Agreement controversies (such as trade jurisdictional disputes among unions) out of sight of the public. A month before the closed session board meetings at the Rancho Santiago Community College District, the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority had been caught also planning to discuss Project Labor Agreement terms and conditions in a closed session meeting.

If this practice continued, it would undermine the public’s ability to comment on Project Labor Agreements.

An attorney representing the Southern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) initiated correspondence with the Rancho Santiago Community College District objecting to the board’s closed session meetings. Objections were based on California Government Code Section 54960 (part of the Ralph M. Brown Act), which authorizes any interested person to seek judicial action to stop or prevent violations or threatened violations of state laws related to open and transparent government conduct.

In response, the president of the college board of trustees provided the following statement:

The Board of Trustees of the Rancho Santiago Community College District has received your cease and desist letter on behalf of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Southern California, Inc. dated October 10, 2014, and clarification letter on November 6, 2014, alleging that the following described past action of the legislative body violates the Ralph M. Brown Act:

• Holding closed session negotiation and discussions regarding the terms of project labor agreements, including the ”Community and Student Workforce Project Agreement.”

In order to avoid unnecessary litigation and without admitting any violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, the Board of Trustees of the Rancho Santiago Community College District hereby unconditionally commits that it will cease, desist from, and not repeat the challenged past action as described above.

But it wasn’t enough just to get a letter from the college district. There needed to be true public accountability for the scheme.

As it pursued the violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, the Southern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors began informing the public about the involvement of community college board member Jose Solorio in the Project Labor Agreement scheme. Solorio was in a highly competitive election for an open State Senate seat.

In the end, Solorio lost the election to Republican Janet Nguyen, allowing Republicans to gain a seat in the California State Senate and deprive Democrats of a supermajority. The college district agreed not to engage in closed session discussions about Project Labor Agreements. And a warning was sent to union officials and their political sycophants about doing their business in secret.

Sources

“cease, desist from, and not repeat” letter from President of Board of Trustees of Rancho Santiago Community College District - December 8, 2014

Hiding of Solorio Backed Union Deal Likely To End in Lawsuit – OC Political – November 1, 2014

Ralph M. Brown Act (California Government Code Section 54950-54963)

Will California Union Officials Get to Discuss Project Labor Agreements in Closed Session? –www.UnionWatch.org – November 26, 2013

California Political Review

Gov. Jerry Brown is running around the state warning voters that if taxes are not increased, there will be crippling cuts to education. But unfortunately, very little attention is paid to the wasteful and unfair mandates that politicians already put on some local schools. It often means we only get four schools for the price of five.

These mandates, called project labor agreements (PLAs), are also the wrong lesson for our kids. While we teach students about fair play and hard work, PLA mandates deprive the 86 percent of America’s construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor organization of the opportunity to work and advance.

Now, two PLA supporters are asking taxpayers to give them a promotion. After passing a costly PLA for their special interest friends, Riverside Community College District Trustees Mark Takano and Jose Medina are asking the voters of Riverside County to elect them to U.S. Congress and the California State Assembly respectively.

Firm seeks Chapter 11 protection; officials sure 1,000-megawatt solar farms will be built

Once the mother lode of Riverside County's solar gold rush, the stalled, 1,000-megawatt Blythe solar plant east of the Coachella Valley suffered another setback Monday as project developer Solar Trust of America filed for bankruptcy.

The Oakland-based company filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy — seeking to restructure its debts — in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, listing assets of up to $10 million and debts of up to $100 million.

The company's two main assets listed in the filing are the Blythe project and the 500-megawatt Palen solar project, which has awaited final approval from the federal Bureau of Land Management since June. Company officials were not available for comment Monday.

Both are in the Riverside East solar zone — 147,910 acres of public land stretching from Joshua Tree National Park to the city of Blythe, close to Interstate 10 and existing transmission corridors.

The Blythe project broke ground in June with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and California Gov. Jerry Brown both hailing it as the largest solar plant in the world and a major engine for job creation and economic growth.

The solar thermal project would have partially covered 7,030 acres of public land with huge, parabolic solar troughs, creating 1,000 jobs at the peak of construction and powering up to to 300,000 homes.

Blythe City Manager David Lane said residents in the 20,800-population town eight miles east of the project site are taking the bankruptcy in stride.

“It's a little blip,” he said. “I don't think people are as disappointed as you might think.

“When you consider the amount of investment in the project and what it's got going for it, someone is going to build it,” he said.

Monday's filing adds another bankruptcy to the growing list of firms that have failed in the solar industry shakeout that began last year when Northern California-based panel manufacturer Solyndra closed its doors, defaulting on a $535 million federal loan guarantee.

Like Solyndra, Solar Trust had received a federal loan guarantee, at $2.1billion one of the largest ever given by the Department of Energy.

But Monday's bankruptcy filing did not mean a default because Solar Trust lost the guarantee when the project was put on hold in August for a change in technology from solar thermal to photovoltaic.

Support lost

According to the narrative laid out in the Solar Trust bankruptcy filing by CEO Edward Kleinschmidt, as a developer, his company depended on its German parent company, Solar Millennium, for operating funds.

When Solar Millennium filed for bankruptcy in Germany in December, it cut off operating funds to Solar Trust and the bills piled up.

A prospective deal to sell Blythe, Palen and a controlling interest in Solar Trust to another German firm, solarhybrid, collapsed in March when solarhybrid also filed for bankruptcy as a result of sharp cuts in German government subsidies for solar.

Kleinschmidt, who took over as Solar Trust's CEO on Friday, said the decision to file for Chapter 11 came when the company realized it would not be able to pay $1 million in rental fees due to the BLM on April 1.

BLM officials could not comment on the rental fees, but said Monday that, in general, solar developers have to post bonds to cover site restoration in the event of a project failure.

Under the filing, the company will retain the development rights for both projects during the bankruptcy proceeding.

It may be able to obtain some interim financing from NextEra Energy, which owns the two solar projects now under construction in the Riverside East zone, the Genesis project and the Desert Sunlight project, which it owns with GE.

Steve Stengel, a spokesman for NextEra, declined comment Monday.

Southern California Edison, which had negotiated a contract to purchase power from the Blythe project, said the bankruptcy will not affect its strategy for obtaining 33 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020, as required by state law.

“We procure a high-need case; it presumes a 40 percent failure rate,” said Bill Walsh, Edison's manager of renewable procurement. “We've been planning for that reserve margin. It's not as big a hit as you think it would be.”

Like Lane, Michael Picker, the governor's senior advisor on renewable energy facilities, is optimistic about the comeback chances for the Blythe project, noting that financial reversals are the norm for large-scale projects.

“It's got the land mass for something as big as 1,000 megawatts; it's got transmission; it's got permits; and I bet there's some market for it,” he said. “I would not be surprised to see a couple bidders show up and get under way pretty soon.”

Written by: K Kaufmann

-The Desert Sun

President Obama recently pronounced that it's time for companies to "step up" and increase hiring. Specifically, he said "the issue here is not uncertainty. The issue is they've got to start placing their bets on America" and that "it's time for companies to step up."

How fascinating.

 

President Obama recently pronounced that it's time for companies to "step up" and increase hiring. Specifically, he said "the issue here is not uncertainty. The issue is they've got to start placing their bets on America" and that "it's time for companies to step up."

How fascinating.

Something the president seems not to understand is that there is one big reason there are millions of Americans either unemployed or underemployed, and more workers than there are for job openings: Government.

San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Rejects IBEW's Greenmail Attempt on Solar Project

On February 8 the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors rejected the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers' (IBEW) attempts to hold up the 40-megawatt commercial Solar Photovoltaic Energy Facility on "environmental" grounds. This was just the latest attempt by certain unions in California to extort, or as we refer to it "greenmail", an owner into signing a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). The owner refused, the unions tried to hold up the project, and once again as is increasingly the case, the project moved forward because the unions' claims were absurd.

Associated Builders and Contractors of Southern California's Jackie Nutting and CFEC's Eric Christen both spoke before the board explaining what exactly was going on. The poor young lawyer representing the IBEW also spoke though she looked like she would rather be having a root canal. The Supervisors rejected the greenmail threat and approved the project. Good news.

A proposed solar energy facility near Kramer Junction was approved by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday, despite opposition by a local union group.

The planning commission had previously approved the project last October, but members of the Local 477 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said they had specific environmental concerns about the project, including the water supply needed for the project and concerns about drainage and animals in the area.

A lawyer representing the Local 477 IBEW said Tuesday that her clients wanted to make sure that the water supply was adequate for the area. Robyn Purchia, a lawyer from Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, said that a nearby project that was half the size of the Kramer Junction project would need three times as much water, and so she felt the Kramer Junction project would need much more water than previously stated.

Wednesday, 09 February 2011 00:00

Supervisors OK Kramer Junction solar project

A proposed solar energy facility near Kramer Junction was approved by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday, despite opposition by a local union group.

The planning commission had previously approved the project last October, but members of the Local 477 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said they had specific environmental concerns about the project, including the water supply needed for the project and concerns about drainage and animals in the area.

A lawyer representing the Local 477 IBEW said Tuesday that her clients wanted to make sure that the water supply was adequate for the area. Robyn Purchia said that her clients simply don't feel that there is enough water to supply the project and wanted a full environmental impact report on the project, instead of the Water Supply Assessment that the county did for the project.

A proposed solar energy facility near Kramer Junction was approved by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday, despite opposition by a local union group.

The planning commission had previously approved the project last October, but members of the Local 477 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said they had specific environmental concerns about the project, including the water supply needed for the project and concerns about drainage and animals in the area.

A lawyer representing the Local 477 IBEW said Tuesday that her clients wanted to make sure that the water supply was adequate for the area. Robyn Purchia, a lawyer from Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, said that a nearby project that was half the size of the Kramer Junction project would need three times as much water, and so she felt the Kramer Junction project would need much more water than previously stated.

Tuesday, 08 February 2011 08:00

Supervisors OK Kramer Junction solar project

A proposed solar energy facility near Kramer Junction was approved by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday, despite opposition by a local union group.

The planning commission had previously approved the project last October, but members of the Local 477 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said they had specific environmental concerns about the project, including the water supply needed for the project and concerns about drainage and animals in the area.

A lawyer representing the Local 477 IBEW said Tuesday that her clients wanted to make sure that the water supply was adequate for the area. Robyn Purchia said that her clients simply don’t feel that there is enough water to supply the project and wanted a full environmental impact report on the project, instead of the Water Supply Assessment that the county did for the project.

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