Native Americans Sue Solar Project Over Endangered Lizard Habitat

On Nov. 4, the Quechan Native American tribe filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, to block the Imperial Valley Solar Project.

Slated for 6,359.56 acres in El Centro, in the California portion of the Sonoran Desert, the 709-MW project reportedly threatens critical habitat of the flat-tailed horned lizard, part of Quechan creation mythology.

It is the Quechan tribe’s contention that the BLM, in fast-tracking the project on public lands, did not take the time to study the downsides or recognize the damage that might occur to culturally significant (Quechan) sites.

The suit closely follows California Energy Commission approval of the project, granted on Oct. 5 by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, following approval by BLM Director Robert Abbey on Oct. 4.

In their suit, Quechan tribal members charge that the Imperial Valley project is a violation of federal laws, regulations and policies, including the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the California Desert Conservation Area Land Use Management Plan.

They also state that fast-tracking the project was done so that the applicant (Tessera Solar) could “obtain millions of dollars of federally available (ARRA) financing that purportedly required project approval before the end of 2010.”

In order to get injunctive relief, the tribe will reportedly have to prove that the threat is imminent (e.g., construction is about to begin); succeed in proving the validity of at least one of the six claims it is bringing against the BLM; prove that its hardship exceeds that of the developers and the federal government; and demonstrate that stopping the project “serves the public interest.”

This latter would be the toughest obstacle since, without a vast, time-consuming and highly expensive survey, who knows where the public’s interest truly lies?

As reported by a San Diego news source, a group of activists plan to camp at the site Nov. 8-10 to protest the solar farm’s approval.

The project, by Tessera Solar, is a concentrating solar power (CSP) system using Stirling engines and mirrored discs concentrating sunlight on a central receiver just outside each disc.

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2 comments on “Native Americans Sue Solar Project Over Endangered Lizard Habitat


This is just another example of why we need compelling leadership in order to make people recognize htat they need to ensure that the greater good will prevail over the demands of a few. I feel for lizards, too. But frankly, with a little care, they can be cared for as well. It isn’t as if Tessera was proposing making this a nuclear waste disposal site; and even if they were… we should be prepared for those discussions, too – as they are not only relevant, but pressing.

So we need “compelling leadership” to “make people recognize” the “greater good” in these projects,eh?

Thank God, this is America where the rights of the minority are protected by a co-equal branch of government, a system designed by the founders to prevent a majority from ramming down the throats of everyone else, something they don’t want or need.

You see what you have here is a poorly sited project, on sensitive land culturally, biologically, and environmentally- land that will be forever destroyed, in human lifespan terms, which is what most people measure things by.

Land which most scientists now agree is a valuable carbon sink, which some want to bulldoze over to allegedly save carbon by using 28,000+ notoriously unreliable stirling engines, heretofore “proven” commercially only in a 60 unit test of a couple years or so duration.

For this, the native americans are to give up their sacred land? No way, not without a fight. As Teddy Roosevelt would say, “bully for them!”

Shame on Tessera for not siting this project on, closer to the end user, disturbed land, of which there are many thousands of acres available and cheap, and the CEC and DOIBLM for rushing through the permitting process at all costs,

in deed giving the most cursory attempt of compliance to state and federal environmental laws and regulations, as well as an obvious lack of concern

for the cultural aspects of the area.

I say fight on Quechan’s, fight on!

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