The Assembly's move unleashed a torrent of telephone calls and bluntly worded Assembly "floor alerts" urging a "yes" or a "no" vote on the bill. Brown's office lobbied for the bill.
The project has been troubled from the start. It was originally proposed as an 850-megawatt Tessera Solar thermal solar power plant on an 8,230-acre site in the Pisgah Valley, about 37 miles east of Barstow. The site was later reduced to 4,613 acres to create a corridor for desert tortoises, a threatened species.
In 2010, just a few weeks after the project lost its power purchase agreement with Southern California Edison, K Road acquired it from Tessera with plans to convert it to photovoltaic technology.
Today, Calico Solar has no power purchase agreement with a utility, no financing and no construction start date, and it faces a lawsuit by environmentalists. But with the Energy Commission's approval, the project could become an attractive acquisition for a big solar developer.
The bill, AB 1073, was introduced by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar). Fuentes' office said the purpose was simply to clarify Calico Solar's status under a bill approved last year.
That bill, SB 226, gave the Energy Commission — rather than local authorities — exclusive jurisdiction over five non-controversial solar projects. Those projects had gone through the application process, then decided to switch technologies from solar thermal to the less expensive photovoltaic process. Lawmakers believed the change was not significant enough to warrant another round of regulatory scrutiny.