'Evening News' Showcases War of the Greens: Trees vs. Solar Panels

Suppose you had trees on your property that served as a privacy barrier and provided shade for your home. Then imagine your eco-minded neighbor installs solar panels and demands you cut down your trees so sunlight can reach his panels.

You might think: It's my property! The problem is - your neighbor has the law backing him up, according to the April 7 "CBS Evening News." Sounds like a case of environmentalism gone wild, right?

"Richard Treanor lives across the fence, drives a hybrid car," CBS correspondent Ben Tracy said. "Ten years ago he planted these redwoods to provide privacy. Now they had his neighbor seeing red."

"He called us over to the fence one day and said ‘I am going to be installing solar panels and therefore you have to take your trees down,'" Treanor explained.

And thanks to California's 1978 Solar Shade Control Act, the trees had to go. Failure to comply is a criminal offense.

"As it turns out, the law was on the side of the sun," said Tracy. "The California Solar Shade Act requires homeowners to keep their trees from shading more than 10 percent of their neighbor's solar panels between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. The experts determined that 15 percent of Mark's solar panels were being shaded by those trees. That meant the trees were in violation and the neighbors that owned them - criminals."

In addition to the personal property violations, the law effectively mandates an energy source that isn't yet affordable - a point completely ignored by "Evening News." Even Anne Thompson, NBC's chief environmental affairs correspondent, reported March 14 it would require a cap-and-trade to make the unaffordable affordable when it comes to solar power.

Eventually as solar power is becomes affordable and mandated, more of these conflicts will arise, predicts a legal scholar. "As solar panels become more and more cost effective, you're going to see more and more disputes between homeowners of this nature," Barton "Buzz" Thompson, a law professor Stanford University, said to CBS.

"But that, of course would require an inconvenient truce," Tracy added.