Settlement Reached in Riverside County Solar Power Plant Policy Lawsuit - Settlement Pending Board of Supervisors’ Approval of Policy Modifications

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Riverside County and the solar developers who challenged the county’s solar power plant ordinance in court came to a tentative settlement agreement, approved by a Riverside judge last week. Before the solar developers drop their lawsuit, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors must accept the agreement’s proposed modifications to the county’s solar power plant policy, including changes in fees, taxes and approval processes. The Board of Supervisors will consider the agreement and the proposed policy modifications on May 21st.

The proposed solar plant policy only applies to plants with a rated production capacity of more than 20 megawatts and where more than 50 percent of the electricity generated will be used at locations other than the site of the solar power plant. The proposed policy modifications include lowering the annual per acre fee charged to solar power plant owners from $450 to $150, with two percent annual increases starting in 2014. It also requires each solar plant to ensure the maximum allowable sales and use taxes generated by plant construction go to the county, through the inclusion of certain contract provisions and requirements mandated by the policy. In addition, the policy will require that the county establish a program to expedite review and approval of any county agreements and permits needed for siting, developing and operating solar power plants.

Under the proposed policy, solar power plant owners may request an exception from the policy’s requirements, granted upon a finding by the Board of Supervisors of “special circumstances.” These may include a determination that the plant will provide a substantial benefit to the county beyond the payment of taxes or the implementation of mitigation measures, but cannot include financial or economic hardship. 

For further information on how the settlement agreement may affect your organization, please contact Renewable Energy attorneys Sophie Akins or Robert Hargreaves, or your BB&K attorney.