Board approves Algae Bill

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(August 15, 2012, EL CENTRO) – Tuesday, the board of Supervisors reversed course on their opposition to California Assembly bill (AB 642- author Senator Charles Calderon) after successfully negotiating changes favorable to the Imperial Valley.
The bill initially caught the ire of the board as it dealt with valley biomass research grants (to promote algae production) and the Salton Sea. This bill surfaced without even a courtesy notification to the board of supervisors or the Salton Sea Authority and it appeared to put decision making power of the Salton Sea back in the state’s control. Local entities have been successfully wrestling authority back to the valley.
Existing law requires the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission to administer the Renewable Energy Resources Program, which provides financial assistance for the development of renewable electricity generation facilities, including facilities that use biomass.
This bill would enact the Salton Sea Stabilization and Agricultural Cultivation Act, which would authorize the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency to establish an Algae Production Program in the Imperial Valley to meet high-priority economic and environmental goals, expedite regulatory application and review processes, and provide grants to facilitate research and the commercial development of algae for fuels, foods, medicines, and clean water within the state. The bill would further authorize the secretary to provide grants to eligible research institutions and commercial enterprises for research and demonstration projects leading to the commercial development of algae.
Recently, Synthetic Genomics, Inc purchased 80 acres in the Calipatria area next to the Salton Sea to grow algae and experiment making new products. They are the newest beneficiaries of the Imperial Valley Enterprise Zone. They have been supporters of the bill by Calderon.
The bill would require a commercial enterprise for a demonstration project, to be eligible for a grant, to agree to a royalty or other revenue arrangement. The bill would require royalties and revenues received to be deposited into the Algae Production Program Fund, which is created by this bill.
One of the concessions the valley won in negotiations is to receive 50% of the revenue versus the 100% that was earmarked to return to the state. The funds kept in the valley will be used toward restoration of the Salton Sea.
Supervisor John Renison, District 1, said, “The state has a record of grabbing as much as it wants, I will vote to approve the bill, but I’m not convinced the state won’t come back for the other half.”
Gary Wyatt remarked, “It’s important to me that the county remains engaged in all the negotiations and decisions. We got half of the money back, that is a huge victory with the state. Partnership with state and county and sea is beneficial to our county. This is another source of revenue.”
The other two requested and approved changes was for the county, through the board of supervisors and the Salton Sea Authority to have participation in all facets of the decisions and for nothing in the bill to override the local authority that is established concerning the Salton Sea and green energy production.
The county will maintain planning and permitting authority and keeps the power to ensure building conforms to the valley’s needs.