After hearing early concerns from residents, solar energy giant SunPower has ceased hauling gravel through Santa Margarita.
On Oct. 6, New Times reported that SunPower—with a blessing from San Luis Obispo County officials—had altered truck routes to transport gravel to its 250-megawatt facility in the California Valley. Due to delays in the permitting process for the onsite Twisselman Mine, proposed just miles from the project, the company switched gravel suppliers to Hanson Aggregates in Santa Margarita—but without public input from residents and contrary to the traffic plan proposed during the project’s environmental review.
According to an e-mail between county Environmental Coordinator Ellen Carroll and a resident, “SunPower has halted all aggregate trucks using Santa Margarita Highway 58 west.” The change was made on Oct. 6.
In an Oct. 7 letter from county Planning and Building Director Jason Giffen to SunPower, he said the project’s permits “do not allow for aggregate truck trips from the Santa Margarita Highway 58 area.”
Giffen said the project’s permits do not allow for trucks to come from the Santa Margarita area, but only along Highway 58 east of the project.
“We are aware that the Twisselman Mine is not quite operational and therefore the county will expedite all permits necessary so that SunPower can start using aggregate as soon as possible,” the letter continues.
Yet residents are still asking questions of county officials; most significantly, they want to know who made the decision.
According to the e-mail from Carroll to one resident, the amendment to the traffic plan that allowed trucks from Santa Margarita was proposed by SunPower. For the week beginning Oct. 10, the county allowed SunPower to bring in aggregate on Highway 58, from the east.
A follow-up meeting between the county and SunPower is scheduled for Oct. 14.