Environment | Law | Opinion

Opinion: Tribes should be included in renewable energy solutions





"To be truly effective, large-scale solar energy extraction facilities require extensive tracts of very sunny land. Thus, public and traditional tribal lands in the Southwest attract such facilities. Their construction and operation is not free from environmental consequences; nothing is. However, delay likewise has environmental consequences.

On Oct. 29, 2010, the Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation (Quechan), a federally recognized tribe, filed a complaint against various U.S. agencies in San Diego Federal District Court seeking an injunction and other remedies. The action challenged "the Record of Decision for the Imperial Valley Solar Project," and thus, by implication, potentially adversely affected a number of large solar energy projects moving toward construction in Imperial County and elsewhere in the desert southwest.

Represented by Morisset, Schlosser and Jozwiak, a Seattle-based law firm, the Quechan also retained Bryan Snyder of San Diego as local counsel. The case alleges, inter alia, the U.S. agencies and solar project developer did not consult adequately with the Quechan concerning cultural resources found in their "traditional territory." Some of the "traditional territory" at issue is not now on the tribe's reservation.

The complaint alleges: "For thousands of years, the Quechan Tribe and tribal ancestors traditionally occupied, traveled, traded and utilized resources within a broad geographical area located within the desert lands of modern-day Arizona and Southern California."

It is alleged the defendant U.S. Interior Department acknowledged the traditional use of the solar project's area by Quechan ancestors. Moreover, the Tribe has an established effort to preserve its culture, language, religion, history, ancient sites and artifacts."

Get the Story:
Daniel Coffey: Will the tribes support large-scale solar to reduce climate-change? (The San Diego Daily Transcript 1/13)

Related Stories:
Quechan Nation wins ruling in case against solar power project (12/17)
Quechan Nation elders stage protest against solar energy plant (11/16)
Quechan Nation elders upset by approval of solar power project (11/15)
Blog: Quechan Nation faces uphill battle in lawsuit over solar farm (11/04)
Quechan Nation wants federal judge to block solar energy project (11/3)
Tribal members worried about fast-tracking of energy projects (10/20)

Join the Conversation