There continue to be many, many problems with this ZTA - the lack of water quality and forest protections (full fact sheet here) all requiring the stakeholder involvement that will be brought by the Task Force Council President Katz will be proposing at this work session.
Specifically, fans of pollinators (which should be everyone) should note that a landowner can still get the "Pollinator Friendly Certification" required by this ZTA by regularly spraying insecticides on the carefully chosen plants allowed by the program and actually gain points for use of herbicides (p. 27 of the packet linked above).
We've been asking that folks reiterate the need for a task force to take on this issue in light of the fact that the ZTA's backers are still insisting this proposal go ahead without the broader stakeholder engagement necessary to balance solar and forests/water quality/productive soils.
The pandemic is just one of many other issues packing the Council's overflowing agenda and this ZTA will now be taken up next Tuesday (10/13). In delaying taking up the ZTA, Council President Katz announced he plans to make a resolution for a task force and ZTA sponsor Councilmember Riemer announced his position that a task force was the wrong way to go.
We brought a coalition of farmers, water quality defenders and civic groups on to zooms with the Councilmembers on this issue over the past weeks. Councilmembers expressed broad support for a task force that can chart the siting of renewable energy carefully - including incorporating the more holistic Climate Action Resilience Plan (CARP) written for the County due out in a matter of weeks.
However, proponents of the ZTA are still insisting that the measure go ahead without delay or further discussion with stakeholders, calling solar on productive farmland a moral imperative to make solar affordable for low income residents in Montgomery County. This stance is being taken while the 3rd party electrical suppliers pushing this ZTA are under investigation for predatory practices in these same low income neighborhoods. (fact sheet here).
Take 2 minutes to make your voice heard (again) right here before Tuesday 10/13.
Please let the council hear from you yet again today before they possibly vote tomorrow - a task force is the way to make progress toward renewable energy generation that balances natural systems and food production.
We also just heard from our friends at Sugarloaf Citizens Association that the solar experts they had look over the ZTA have just published their findings - only about 4% of the energy produced under this proposal would stay in the County. (p. 8 Executive Summary)
Deep gratitude to all the action takers that shared their concerns with the Council. Make no mistake - the hundreds of emails sent provided the needed oomph to make our case before an understandably otherwise occupied Council. You were fact based, respectful and tenacious.
We are grateful for CM Katz's leadership in ensuring public process thoughtful and collaborative outcome. This process will afford stakeholders, notably farmers, a voice in how best to advance solar while not supplanting agriculture and damaging our critical natural resources.
While this is a welcome opportunity to get solar right in Montgomery County, concerns remain about how we balance growing food and ground mounted commercial solar.
Please take two minutes to thank the council and reiterate your concerns about this proposal.
There are many ways this ZTA lacked protections - scant protections for forests, productive soils, water quality, etc. It also lacked equity as the same 3rd party electric suppliers that would sell this power are under investigation for predatory pricing in low income communities. To take a deeper dive into all this, please see our fact sheet here.