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Few Show Up for Solar Hearings in Imperial Valley

— Few turned out for a meeting called by federal officials to solicit input regarding development of solar-energy plants in the desert.

Of the dozen people who showed up, just three were local residents. The rest, were solar-company executives and local government officials.

Representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, and the Departments of the Interior and Energy said they welcomed public input on the so-called Solar Energy Zone (SEZ) proposal.

One alternative, the agencies said, is to allow for utility-scale solar development only in the 677,400 acres of zones in six Western states, including California, Nevada and Arizona. The other proposal was to focus development on the zones, but also allow solar expansion into other areas.

But Imperial Resident Juan Zarate was left frustrated by the exchange because there were no questions taken, and no details given on environmental or social impacts.

"You've got about 10,000 acres in Imperial County that's under review for solar projects," said Zarate after the meeting. "I question these corporations coming into the valley. Their responsibilities (are) to their investors that are targeted to make millions and in some instances, billions of dollars."

These solar-energy zones are expected to fast-track green-energy development throughout the region. Other hearings are scheduled in Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico through mid-March.

Public comments will also be accepted through March 17th online at http://solareis.anl.gov/.

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