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Supervisors OK disputed wind park after deal struck with military contractor

Kern County supervisors Tuesday blessed a disputed wind park project proposed on 5,820 acres 15 miles west of Rosamond.

The project would produce 300 megawatts of power, enough to light at least 90,000 homes, county planners said.

Dispute over the project centered on a military testing facility nearby.

Military contractor Northrop Grumman Co. had said the radar clutter from energy company enXco’s plans would kill operations at its Tejon Test Facility, where work on the B2 bomber is under way.

A deal was hammered out in last-minute, back room negotiations between Northrop and enXco.

Northrop had attacked the environmental justification for the wind park in massive reports and consultant studies submitted to the Kern County Planning Department, said county planner Lorelei Oviatt.

But Oviatt said Northrop Grumman’s concerns are purely financial.

They have no bearing on whether the wind energy plant would violate state environmental law, she said.

Oviatt also lambasted the Chambers Group, an environmental contractor for Northrop.

The county hired Chambers Group recently to do a separate environmental report on the company’s assurances that it was no longer working for Grumman on the wind park issue.

But Oviatt said Northrop recently delivered an “attack piece” drafted by Chambers, putting the county in a conflict of interest.

She called Chambers’ actions a serious breach of professional ethics and suggested the county immediately fire the company.

Following Oviatt’s remarks, representatives from Northrop and enXco asked supervisors to give them a half hour to step aside and craft a deal.

Supervisors gave them an hour.

They came back with a tentative deal.

It would require enXco to move the location of two turbines and a construction delay for a number of other turbines until May 1, 2010, at the latest.

Supervisors voted to support the compromise and proceed with efforts to end the contract with the Chambers Group.

“If we’re going to promote wind energy in California, every turbine counts,” Oviatt said.

By James Burger
Californian staff writer

Bakersfield Californian

29 July 2008