The Problem of a Flawed EIS/EIR:
The Karlton Federal Court Decision regarding TRPA.
The Tahoe Area Sierra Club (TASC), The League to Save Lake Tahoe (League),
The North Tahoe Citizen Action Alliance (NTCAA),
and the Proposed Biomass EIS/EIR
There is case precedent for TRPA to certify inadequate (flawed) environmental documents. In what we consider to be a fascinating and searing decision, rendered on September 16, 2010, Senior Federal Court Judge Lawrence K. Karlson found TRPA remiss in fulfilling its obligation to protect and restore Lake Tahoe as an Outstanding National Resource Water (ONRW). In a case concerning the shoreline, he found that the conclusions stated in the EIS were both capricious and arbitrary. Essentially, the claim by the environmental firm hired to do the EIS and endorsed by TRPA that the project in question would not degrade water quality was incorrect; the EIS was flawed. In short, TRPA was told, in no uncertain terms, that it was not doing what it was established to do: Preserve and protect the lake. The project manager for the EIS found flawed by Judge Karlton is the same individual contracted to perform the study for the biomass project.
(Briefly, on October 22, 2008, TRPA proposed amendments to its “shorezone”
ordinances regarding buoys, piers, ramps, and boat slips. An EIS/EIR was, of
course, filed supporting the action. As a result, the League and NTSC took issue
with the findings and decision and sued TRPA in Federal District Court. The
California State Lands Commission filed a brief in support of the plaintiffs and
the Shorezone Property Owners Association filed a brief in support of TRPA.
TRPA lost the case.)
Consequently, TASC and the League have together issued a thorough response to the NOP delineating concerns that the EIS/EIR should address. The same is true for NTCAA. These can be found in the “Relevant Documents” section of this website.
However, please keep in mind that there is no guarantee that the biomass study will come close to examining what is requested in these two documents. The topics requested to be included simply might be ignored. This biomass plant has been fast tracked by Placer County since the beginning, and there may be a belief that if they have the votes on the TRPA Board, regardless of an inadequate EIS/EIR, then they will move it to a vote. That is a dynamic that must be changed.
From our vantage point, given the circumstances, we expect the EIS/EIR regarding the biomass plant will also be capricious and arbitrary, as with the previous case. That does not mean, however, that a lawsuit will automatically be filed by the League, NTSC, NTCAA or any other entity. They are each deeply involved in a lot of matters that warrant litigation and have to prioritize their choices in terms of their limited resources, the complexity of the case, the resources of the opposition, and the status of public opinion regarding the issue.
It is important, consequently, that a well organized political movement be launched by Friends of Lake Tahoe in an effort to discredit the EIS/EIR in order to halt a vote in favor of the plant and by so doing also demonstrate broad based, universal, lake-wide opposition to the plant. Friends of Lake Tahoe, through its leadership of Non-resident Tahoe Property Owners (unlike the other organizations that deal only with members) is well suited to this task.
Again, the other organizations are membership driven and do not have a broad public base in the Basin that includes a primary focus on non-residents. While there is some overlap, they do not represent our constituency.
Bolstered by this political action, entities capable of individually or collectively suing TRPA and Placer County would be encouraged to do so if need be, including Friends of Lake Tahoe. The primary objective, however, is to end the project politically and thereby avoid the financing of a lawsuit on any organization’s part, individually or collectively.