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Wal-Mart's solar power no-show

A San Bernardino Superior Court judge on Thursday rebuffed Wal-Mart’s plan for a super center in the desert city of Yucca Valley, partly on the grounds that the giant retailer failed to take measures to reduce its contribution to global warming.

Environmentalists had been pressuring Wal-Mart to install solar panels to provide electricity for its proposed 184,000-square-foot store. But the retailer contended that the estimated 7,000 metric tons per year of planet-heating greenhouse gases that would result from the store’s operation was too insignificant to require such measures under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Judge Barry Plotkin, relying on contrary evidence from state air quality officials, ruled otherwise on Thursday, in a case that signals a growing legal consensus  that climate change must be considered by businesses and governments promoting new developments.

“California is in the forefront,” said Matthew Vespa, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based advocacy group, which sued Wal-Mart and Yucca Valley. The center also won a case last year against Desert Hot Springs after the city failed to analyze the greenhouse gas emissions that would result from a golf course and 2,600-home development.

Activists have had a powerful ally in California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who has won agreements from San Bernardino County, ConocoPhillips, the Port of Los Angeles, the San Diego Airport Authority, and Cilion, a Kern County ethanol plant, to measure or mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

The efforts to account for the effect of land use on climate change are part of California’s groundbreaking plan, adopted in December, to slash the state’s overall emissions by about 15% by 2020.

Yucca Valley’s proposed super center is designed to replace an existing 120,000-square-foot store. It would include a large grocery area, which Wal-Mart claimed would not affect the city’s four other grocery stores. Judge Plotkin, however, found the retailer’s economic analysis flawed.

The judge also deemed the retailer’s analysis of ozone and dust pollution inadequate.

“We’re disappointed with this ruling,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Michelle Bradford. “It delays the opportunity for Yucca Valley residents to enjoy the benefits of cost savings and new opportunities, at a store that is setting new standards for sustainable building.”

Bradford declined to say what those standards were. However, Wal-Mart has waged a public campaign  to promote its sustainability efforts in recent years.

The judge ordered city officials to examine the feasibility of an “environmentally superior ‘green’ Wal-Mart super center alternative.” “Wal-Mart has pilot projects to put solar on a very small fraction of their stores,” Vespa said. “And Wal-Mart has claimed for years their aim is 100% renewable power. But for a project in the California desert, outside Joshua Tree National Park, an ideal location for solar, they bent over backwards to avoid it.”

Yucca Valley town manager Andrew Takata said that city officials were “disappointed” with the court ruling, but that plans for the new store would proceed, either through an appeal or by revising the environmental impact statement.

--Margot Roosevelt

Comments () | Archives (28)

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We need more judges like hon. Barry Plotkin.
He is a genius & the best judge in the nation!
Wake up!!! This judge knows what's up!!! Thank you hon. Plotkin!

Great post! Thank you very much for given this article...

This Wal-Mart super center would undoubtedly put the town's struggling Food for Less out of business, leaving another massive big box store empty -- a prime example of the growing urban blight that plagues these desert communities.

Would this new Walmart have significantly reduced the carbon footprint of the vehicles whose owners presently have to shop elsewhere?

“But the retailer contended that the estimated 7,000 metric tons per year of planet-heating greenhouse gases that would result from the store’s operation was too insignificant to require such measures under the California Environmental Quality Act.”

AGREE!! The 7,000 tons of greenhouse gas will be exceeded 10-fold by the people driving there.

...of course, without that local Walmart, those same people will burn 20 to 30 times as much as the 7,000 tons, just driving to the nearest (but much further) Walmart.

But that’s ok, I guess.

Besides, what the Hell is a judge doing using his opinion as a basis of this ruling. It's no wonder California is swirling in the toilet - a masterful example on how to drive business out of state.

I presume that everybody who supports the judge's decision has installed solar panels on their own homes? We are assured that such systems pay for themselves and that the benefits justify legal coercion.

As a former resident of Yucca Valley (1999-2007) I am amused at the comments of the people who have obviously never been there. Especially the gentleman from Saskatchewan. It is amazing to me that California hasn't mandated solar panels on all new construction in the Mojave desert, if not throughout California. It makes eminent economic and environmental sense. Wal-Mart's decision is stupid on several levels, and directly against their corporate interest long-term. But maybe they don't think long-term, just for immediate profit. The judge is trying to save them from their own folly.

What concerns me most is that there are people who would defend Walmart in this situation. The store will most likely be built regardless of enviro studies, court appeals, etc. Even if it is not, another one will likely be built nearby. Why not use solar power? It makes perfect sense and the cost of doing so is a drop in the bucket for a company like Walmart. Unless you're a contractor waiting to start building this store, why should you care?

It's funny. On these blogs you see people slammin' Wal-Mart every chance they get, an yet, if you go to Wal_Mart the stores are full of customers. Most of those screaming about this have probably never been to Yucca Valley!

The high desert is almost ruined by growth. Walmart would
have put it over the top.

So, a judge can order Wal-Mart to install Solar Panels? How come Home Depot or the now defunct dealership in Yucca Valley didn't have to jump through these hoops? Think about the few hundred jobs this would create and help in a struggling economy. These environmentalists are going to ruin this country. This group in Yucca Valley has been smoking a little too much wacky weed I think. I've seen this knuckle head and he doesn't have anything better to do. The stupid desert turtle is keeping a tribe from building a casino in 29 palms. Wal-Mart and the town of Yucca Valley will prevail in the appeal process, I have faith.

Congratulations to the judge for having the backbone to stand up to Wal-Mart, one of the worst corporate bullies in the world, as well as the developer groveling city officials enslaved to the growth-at-any-cost sickness that permeates government.

jdoug: Next year really look at your state ballot. California state judges are elected and/or confirmed by the voters for an additioinal term. This is different than the federal side. No judge is an expert on all things.

Even though I disagree as to the extent of "man-made" climate change, I think the judge is right about the solar. Walmart is doing token with a few pilot solar projects, and this one could be a showpiece. Remember too that this Super Walmart will draw people from at least an hour drive away, maybe more. There are associated emissions with all the driving that the solar supported store would at least appear to mitigate. I think they will give in and put solar, skylights, etc. in the design.

Hey, man. Don't force Wal-Mart to raise their price of chinese slave labor goods to help the environment and lower their shareholder annuity, that would be evil.

WalBogus: For all the money the Eco-freaks spent on lawyers and the cost of the state employee time, they could have bought the solar cells for Walmart and paid for the installation. The manufacture of the solar cells will produce more carbon emissions than they will save in producing electricity.

The courts have passed silly!

Typical response by this money grubbing company. I expect nothing less. Wal-Mart will be the end of us all if we continue to let them walk over main street America. I applaud this decision by the judge. Wish we had more judges just like him.

About time! There is no excuse for not designing and building in a responsible manner. I'd like to see the State get some real balls and mandate that every residential, commericial, government and institutional project require energy efficiency and water conservation as a minimum.

Just because we've always done thing wrong in the past doesn't mean we have to continue to remain ignorant. If we have learned nothing from our past, I hope we have at least learned that it is not in our best interest to allow Walmart to create the standard for sustainable buildings.

Wal Mart Corporation is hardly an individual intended to the liberties bestowed upon us by the Creator. And they should be socially responsible since they reap so many benefits from us. It is a shame that a judge has to force them to be true to all of the green-washing advertizing.

I don't know why these postings always bring out the crazies like ScieneWONK. Climate change is real - get over it.

Now on to the issue at hand -

As much as I would *LOVE* to see Wal-Mart install solar on top of every store. That this is an issue that can be decided by a court is just plain stupid. The best way for government to get businesses to install solar is a combination of higher taxes on energy usage over a certain amount and tax credits for the installation of solar.

The state of Calif. has some of the nations best incentives for business to install
renewable energy. IT APPEARS BY THE ABOVE WRITERS COMMENTS. That they would be against the government requiring a company to abide by any rules. Wal-Mart has said time and again they are for solar energy. But when the rubber hit the road they balked.
I urge anyone to see what a responsible company has done. That would be
FED EX whose Oakland hub is solar powered. Of course we could all just do our thing with no rules and regulations. What a wonderful idea....

Judges are not elected officials - this is intentional. Democracy presupposes an informed citizenry, but as you clearly show, that is not the case. Thus, we need the experts most in touch with the law to determine when mega-corporate entities violate regulations and environmental protections.

To those commenting prior: Is your personal freedom really tied to the construction of a monolithic warehouse in which wares are hocked to the lowest bidder wearing cutoff jean shorts? It's okay to say no to growth sometimes.

If cities want to stop Walmart from opening more stores, it's real simple, just pass a law that mandates department stores to pay livable wages and Walmart will run from that city, like Dracula from garlic.

You 2 angry white guys are right, that you thank goodness are no longer the 'moral majority'. I am white but I know that courts have had to do what the angry white 'Im a victim" mentality havent the guts to do - make ethical long term global friendly decisions that actually help your kids breathe, play and sleep better as they grow up. Going green will actually help retrain and employ literally millions of now or soon to be unemployed angry white guys!...White corporate men would take their kids , their mom, the planet, and democracy to hell with them if it meant they could pay for their material crap right now. Forget others, forget the elderly, forget the middle class(long term job creations), forget clean air, forget individuals rights, screw them all....boooo haaaaaa We angry white men want to destroy it all!..selfishness, im a victim, greed to the bone....thats what we have the courage to live by:(

For all the money walfart is going to spend fighting their own statements of being sustainable, to the lawyers, they could have paid the cost of the solar panel system in full. WHAT FOOLS.

A judge deciding his view of the world is best decided that the residents (that pay the taxes which pay his overpaid salary) are not entitled to an opportunity to make their hard-earned dollars go farther. I thought those on the left and the party in power here in California were for the working person and those needing a temporary hand. This is more proof that the regular citizens of the (formerly) great state of California are being shafted by our elected leaders. I have six words for Tuesday. No. No. No. No. No. No.

More liberal intrusion based on non-existent science designed to increase government control of every facet of individual lives and destroy individual liberties.


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