Dick Krejsa and I were arrested and jailed together in the 1980s during anti-nuclear protests at Diablo Canyon power plant. So we share a commitment to environment protection that goes deeper than most. I’m moved, therefore, to comment upon Dick’s recently stated concerns regarding SunPower Corporation’s plan to build and operate a solar power generating facility on the Carrizo Plain (“Impacts loom for Carrizo Plain wildlife,” Feb. 22).
Voters and protesters in San Luis Obispo County have never been quiet about their energy policy positions. Legions of protesters were jailed in the 1970s and ’80s for their opposition to nuclear power and Diablo Canyon, and voters rejected offshore oil development twice at the polls.
In 1986, a majority of voters gave themselves permit approval power over onshore support facilities for offshore oil development. In 1988, voters used that authority to reject Shell Oil’s massive offshore San Miguel Project, which would have brought crude to our shores for treatment, storage and pipeline transport.
The arguments against nuclear power and offshore oil were convincing. Among them was that we ought to pursue cleaner forms of energy. We blamed President Reagan for removing solar panels from the roof of the White House and we bemoaned the dismantling of the Arco solar plant out on the Carizzo Plain because of Reagan’s fossil-fuel-focused energy policies. We railed against the Reagan administration’s seeming obsession with putting oil rigs off our coast and for him once famously quipping that offshore rigs viewed from his hilltop ranch were “pretty,” like tinkling Christmas ornaments.
And so here we are, more than a quarter century later, arguing over provisions of a California Environmental Quality Act that was drawn up during this state’s halcyon years in the 1970s, when our freeways were new, our universities sparkled, our optimism was muscular and our confidence about cleaner growth and prosperity knew no bounds.
It was the time when our environmental belief system appeared to morph together with our religious convictions, and protecting the environment became an unspoken article of faith among elected officials, right and left.
This belief system is rooted in our happier past, from the time before climate change was acknowledged as a real threat to the world, before our addiction to Middle Eastern oil put us into permanent war and threatens the existence of our republic, before “fracking” became a household word in those parts of the United States where natural gas extraction is common and flame-throwing water faucets are an everyday occurrence.
Some of us in San Luis Obispo County’s environmental movement have come to fancy ourselves a bit more enlightened than our fellow citizens, immune from any need to examine our place in the larger world, or find a greater context for our values and convictions. For this exceptionalism, we’re now branded elitist, and we surely deserve it. I think it’s time we started working to change that.
So, Dick Krejsa, I appeal to you and those who follow your reasoning. The solar projects proposed for the Carrizo Plain offer a chance for us to descend from our lonely ivory towers and begin making smart energy policy based on a belief system still rooted in the street chants of anti-nuclear protest and anti-offshore drilling, but also ready to acknowledge and accept the political and economic realities we face here, now, in the 21st century’s second decade.
This is our chance to show that graying environmentalists still believe in what we said and did back then, but we’re nonetheless prepared to show we’re ready to follow heartfelt words and passions with meaningful solutions.
Jay Salter lives in Atascadero. He serves on the county Civil Service Commission.