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Save Panoche Valley v. San Benito County

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20143
Nos. H037599, (Cal. Ct. App. 6th Dist., 06/25/2013)

A California appellate court upheld a county's certification of an environmental impact report (EIR) regarding a proposed solar power development. A citizens group argued that the county violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it certified the EIR and approved the project because the county incorrectly approved the project despite the existence of a feasible alternative and because there were deficiencies in the impact analyses. But the group's preferred alternative site was infeasible because it is located in two different counties and is privately owned. The evidence also supports the EIR's assessment of biological and agricultural impacts. Nor was it unlawful for the county to cancel certain contracts made under the Williamson Act in order to proceed with the project. The Williamson Act seeks to preserve agricultural land by allowing counties to create agricultural preserves and then enter into contracts with landowners within those preserves. Here, there is substantial evidence to support the county's determination that the public's interest in renewable energy outweighed the purpose of the Williamson Act.