Judge Tosses Out Suits Against Ocotillo Wind Project

Ocotillo Express Wind project turbines | Photo: Florian Boyd/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed two lawsuits against the Ocotillo Express Wind project in Imperial County, saying that the BLM's approval of the project was "reasonable" and "rational." The suits brought by the Quechan tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation and the Desert Protective Council asked the court to stop work on the project. Judge Gonzalo Curiel dismissed both Motions for Summary Judgment on Friday.

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The Desert Protective Council's suit, a hearing over which Curiel presided two weeks ago, challenged the BLM's amendment of the California Desert Conservation Area management plan to allow the right-of-way for the 112-turbine project on BLM lands. The Quechan suit alleged insufficient consultation with the tribe as required under Federal Law, and claimed that developers' reports on the area's archaeological and cultural value were deficient.

The Desert Protective Council -- for which, in the interests of full disclosure, I worked until December 2011 -- has not yet ruled out appealing Curiel's decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. "It is discouraging that our democratic system of checks and balances has broken down when it comes to the administration's determination to usurp our public lands for industrial energy development," Terry Weiner, the Council's Imperial County Projects Coordinator, told ReWire. "If we can no longer count on the courts to force federal agencies to abide by their own laws, how are American citizens supposed to protect our national natural and cultural heritage for future generations?"

When built out, Pattern Energy's project in Ocotillo will provide a maximum of 315 megawatts of power to San Diego Gas and Electric. It started delivering some of that power in December via the controversial Sunrise Powerlink transmission line, which was completed last June.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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