The Problem of TRPA’s and Placer County’s False Claims of “Partners” and “Supporters” regarding the Biomass Project Proposed for the Tahoe Basin.


With the approval and oversight of Placer County and TRPA, Ascent Environmental, hired to perform the Environmental Impact Study regarding the project, was also contracted to write the “Notice of Preparation,” (NOP) that the study would get underway.  This is an official document issued jointly by TRPA and Placer County.   And, a very troubling statement in the NOP with which we take extreme issue as untrue and deliberately misleading is the following on page one under the heading “Project Objectives:”  The Biomass Program includes partnerships with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Tahoe Conservancy, California State Parks, the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, the California Energy Commission, the University of California at Davis, and NV Energy.


There is no evidence to support this claim.  It exists only in the NOP.  And, upon being challenged, it has been recanted as explained below. 


The term “partnership,” as the reader knows, not only has a meaning in the vernacular of business as connoting a formal agreement and understanding but also carries with it a legal contractual connotation that presupposes the formality of such an agreement.  This is particularly the case when it appears in such a document as a governmental NOP and implicitly suggests a partnership in support of the proposal. 


Additionally, this statement is similar to the one in Placer’s website regarding the project which unabashedly lists as “supporters” each of the above organizations (now claimed to be “partners”) in addition to a number of other entities.


Such citations are, in our opinion, designed purely for propagandistic purposes to convince the reader that a wide variety of organizations and agencies officially either support or are partnered with Placer and TRPA regarding this specific proposal.  And, not only is that not true but it also defies common sense because few organizations are inclined to go on record in support of any controversial environmental project, particularly before the publication of an EIS/EIR, especially a university. 


As a consequence, our sister organization, the North Tahoe Citizen Action Alliance (NTCAA) posed the question in a letter mailed on December 2, 2010, to a number of officials within each of the organizations identified as a “partner” of whether  or not their organization was, indeed, a partner.  Not surprising, the responses were negative.


Of particular importance is a response from Placer County’s Biomass Project Manager, Brett Storey, on December 14, 2010, to the supposed “partners” regarding the issue and what we would call “damage control.”  It begins:  “Placer County believes that your organization may have recently received a letter from the North Tahoe Citizen Action Alliance (NTCAA) regarding clarification as to the relationship your organization has with the county regarding a proposed Biomass Facility in the Tahoe Basin.”


Continuing on, regarding the statement in the NOP, Mr. Storey’s letter then states:  By the use of the term “partnership”, the County did not intend to imply that your organization was a partner in the development of the proposed facility in any legal sense, such as through the execution of a document such as a memorandum of agreement.”


Later in the letter, addressing the false comment in Placer’s website about “supporters” of the biomass project for the Tahoe Basin, Mr. Storey states:  “In addition, the Placer County website lists your organization as a political, technical, and/or economic supporter of the proposed Biomass Facility.   The County is in the process of updating the site to more clearly reflect your organization as having been a supporter of the overall concept of a biomass facility within Placer County.”


(Greater clarity would have been forthcoming if he had stated “a supporter of only the overall concept of a biomass facility somewhere within Placer County,” because that is what he is actually stating.)


He then adds that after they have completed the study, “Your organization will have the opportunity to have input and determine whether to support the County’s proposal for a biomass facility.”


In closing, he writes:  “The County hopes that this inadvertent choice of wording has not inconvenienced your agency in any way.”


The point here is that we believe that the choice of words was NOT inadvertent in either the NOP or the website.  The NOP was supposed to have been written by Ascent Environmental since it is in the contract they have with TRPA.  That means that Ascent must have reviewed and signed off on it, and both TRPA and Placer must have reviewed and signed off on it as well since it was issued by them.  Consequently, either it was intentionally written to deceive or there are a lot of incompetent bureaucrats in both government agencies who reviewed the document and approved it without noticing this gross misrepresentation of fact.  And, what does this also say about the private firm, Ascent Environmental?


Moreover, begging to be answered is the question about why the Biomass Project Manager from Placer County is the one to advise affected agencies of these errors in both Placer’s website and Ascent’s NOP.  Can one trust Ascent to do a credible Environmental Impact Study when they make factual errors in the NOP regarding the yet to be written study? 


Visit the “Relevant Documents” section of this website under the heading "NTCAA Partnership Inquiry” and “Placer County Response" for copies of both the notice and Mr. Storey’s very telling response.