Fourth lawsuit filed against Ocotillo Wind Energy Project

A fourth lawsuit has been filed against the 315-MW Ocotillo Wind Energy Project (OWEP) in the California desert, this time by Community Advocates for Renewable Energy Stewardship (CARES). The lawsuit was filed in federal court for in U.S. Southern District Court in California on June 20.

The lawsuit seeks to halt construction of the project, arguing that the U.S. Interior Department, U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the developer, Pattern Energy, violated various provisions of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the California Desert Conservation Area Plan (CDCAP).

OWEP consists of 112 wind turbines on more than 10,000 acres of public land in the Ocotillo Desert east of San Diego, in Imperial County. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a Record of Decision on May 11 approving the project. He cited the Obama administration’s commitment to developing renewable energy on public lands in the West in an environmentally responsible manner.

Pattern Energy insists it has been sensitive to the cultural resources in the project area and has realigned the OWEP footprint, eliminating numerous turbines from the original plan, to avoid some environmental impacts.

Native American tribes and various environmental groups disagree. Similar lawsuits have been filed with the same court by the Desert Protective Council (DPC) and the Laborers’ International Union of North American, Local Union No. 1184 (LIUNA); as well as the Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation and the Protect Our Communities Foundation.

The area is the traditional ancestral landscape of the Kumeyaay, Quechan and Cocopah Indians of Southern California.