Representatives of five energy development companies, speaking at a public meeting in Sacramento, said they are dealing with several agencies on issues such as wildlife habitat, groundwater and potential damage to archaeological sites.
Delays caused by red tape could jeopardize their projects, they said. They need state and federal approvals by this fall in order to meet a Dec. 1 deadline to qualify as “shovel ready,” a requirement for federal economic stimulus dollars.
The discussion before the interagency Renewable Energy Policy Group came as California utilities face a state mandate to supply 20 percent of their customers’ power needs with renewable energy this year and 33 percent by 2020.
Several officials said they need decisions on how they should compensate for damaging habitat of desert tortoises, which are threatened with extinction, and other wildlife.
John Woolard, chief executive officer of Oakland-based BrightSource Inc., said the company’s project near the Nevada state line depends on relocating at least 25 tortoises this fall from the Ivanpah Valley off Interstate 15.
The company must also pay for habitat elsewhere.
BrightSource and wildlife officials are looking at establishing a land acquisition fund that energy developers could fund to meet their habitat compensation requirements.
Companies also complained that they don’t know how much they will have to pay to lease public land for their developments.
Melissa Jones, executive director of the California Energy Commission, said she has added staff and streamlined operations to more quickly process energy applications. The agency also has given priority to projects that could qualify for stimulus dollars.
But she added that the projects are complex and would consume large stretches of undisturbed public land inhabited by threatened and endangered species.
“We can’t take shortcuts,” Jones said.