Native American group and environmentalists sue feds to block six solar projects in California

The Los Angeles Times reported on a law suit by the Native American group La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle and environmentalists to block six enormous solar projects approved by the Department of the Interior.

The projects include BrightSource Energy’s 3,600-acre solar facility in San Bernardino County’s Ivanpah Valley, where work began in October, and Solar Millennium’s proposed 5,900-acre solar thermal project eight miles west of Blythe.

The lawsuit accuses the Bureau of Land Management of fast-tracking the projects without the required environmental review and without consulting American Indian tribes that oversee the preservation of sites with religious and cultural significance. Allegedly, the federal agency disregarded its formal agreement to consult with La Cuna to protect sacred sites.

Cory Briggs, lead attorney on the lawsuit, said the Obama administration raced to approve solar projects in California before the Dec. 31 deadline for economic-stimulus funding.

The California Energy Commission apparently acknowledged the difficulty of preventing harm to sacred sites in its final decision approving the Blythe project, for example, when it said that “given the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act deadlines, Commission and BLM staff have not had time to provide a detailed evaluation of each resource.”

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