The City of Industry has quietly put more than $9 million in public funds at risk as it pursues an ambitious and uncertain proposal to develop a sprawling solar farm in the open hills connecting Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties.
The spending, in the form of advances to a private energy firm formed last year, has steadily increased despite extended delays in securing key property for the project, warnings that needed zoning changes aren’t guaranteed and questions raised by the city controller about reimbursements requested by the company.
Authorization for the outlays came in closed-door City Council sessions that weren’t always clearly reflected in official meeting minutes, according to interviews and a review by Southern California News Group. And an initial cap on spending for the solar project was recently doubled to $11.5 million, city officials confirmed.
If the project fails to proceed, the insular, business-centric town with fewer than 100 voters could lose its investment in the proposed 444-megawatt power generating array envisioned for ranchland and canyons in the Chino Hills area east of the 57 freeway, according to an attorney for the city’s utility commission. “That’s the risk,” said the panel’s lawyer, Tony Bouza.
Bouza argued the city is taking a calculated chance. The deal struck with San Gabriel Valley Water and Power LLC favors the city, he said, because Industry will recover both its upfront advances and up to $4 million a year for the life of the 65-year land lease, if construction begins on the solar farm and it succeeds as envisioned.
Still, in a…
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