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Fast-tracked Wind Power Project Challenged in Nevada

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Fast-tracking a renewable energy project seems to have backfired on a U.S. government agency again. Three tribes have joined the Center for Biological Diversity and the Western Watersheds Project to sue the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for giving permission last fall to build a 75-turbine, 150 megawatt wind project on 31 square kilometers of public land in eastern Nevada, the energy website Recharge News reported.

As with lawsuits filed against U.S. and California state agencies late last year over various solar projects, the plaintiffs alleged that the project did not undergo a complete environmental analysis and asked that approval be reversed until a new environmental impact report is done.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Nevada, aims to “protect pristine mountain valley adjacent to Great Basin National Park in Nevada from a poorly-sited, 8,000-acre industrial wind energy project approved by the Department of the Interior with minimal environmental review,” the Center for Biological Diversity stated in a press release. “The valley is home to rare and imperiled wildlife such as the greater sage grouse, as well as sensitive species like golden eagles and free-tailed bats. The project area is also a sacred site to Western Shoshone tribes.”

Recharge News said that the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe and the Ely Shoshone Tribe hold another adjacent area sacred because it is the site of ancient Indian villages and festivals, as well as where massacres took place.

“Tribes use the site for hunting, gathering, and religious purposes,” the plaintiffs stated. “Tribal members will continue using the project area into the foreseeable future and will be adversely affected by the construction and operation of the proposed wind energy facility. The integrity of sacred sites directly sustains the identity of the Tribes that hold them sacred.”

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the BLM approved the proposal by Spring Valley Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of Pattenr Energy of San Francisco (which is not named in the lawsuit, Recharge News said), just north of Great Basin National Park, on October 15, 2010.

“The BLM approved the project over the objections of state and federal wildlife officials, nearby tribes and conservation groups,” the Center said in a press release. “Rather than carrying out a detailed review involving the preparation of an environmental impact statement, the BLM instead prepared only a cursory environmental assessment.”