View Full Version : Lawsuits target big solar projects

27 February 2011, 1654
That is the title of a long article in my newspaper today, written by Todd Woodly of the New York Times. The article says that several large solar power projects proposed to be built in Southern California, which have received their construction permits, are being hit by lawsuits from environmentalists and Indian tribes. The article also mentions that on January 25, Solar Millennium withdrew its 16-month old application for a 250 MW solar station, citing regulator's concerns over the project's impact on the Mohave ground squirrel.

At peak output the 5 solar projects would create enough power for 2 million homes, create thousands of construction jobs and help the State meet its aggressive renewable energy mandates. But these projects are being challenged by environmentalists over their impact on the desert tortoises and by Indian tribes on the impact to their "Native American culture and environment".

The lawsuits are impacting the builders' ability to get both private and government funding. Only BrightSource Energy has obtained a government loan guarantee and has begun construction.

The article goes into a lot more detail about these lawsuits and it doesn't sound too hopeful that they will be resolved any time in the near future.

Comment: It is tough to obtain funding when you may be tied-up in court for years, with no guarantee that you will win approval to commence work. I hope this isn't a case of legal blackmail, where the only way you can make these lawsuits go away is by reaching an out-of-court settlement, whereby the plaintiffs get paid off to go away. I have seen this happen with housing projects several times when working in my former job as a reviewer of development projects.

27 February 2011, 1923
How were they able to initially get permits to build on Indian land? Guess I don't know how all the jurisdiction works in such cases but seems like they should have engaged the tribes from the very start. Sad to hear that environmentalists are protesting green energy (if they really are enviros and not a front for the oil/coal lobby).

28 February 2011, 0814
(if they really are enviros and not a front for the oil/coal lobby).

That was my first thought.

28 February 2011, 0900
How were they able to initially get permits to build on Indian land?

The projects are not on indian land, they are on public land administered by the Burearu of Land Management. The problem is the Native American groups say that the planned installations are on or near places which are sacred to the Native Americans and which would be disturbed or disrupted by the projects.

Alfredo Figueroa, whose group La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle filed three lawsuits last month against five fast-tracked projects including a 1,000 megawatt project in Blythe, said the government is not giving their concerns as much weight as is given to federal archeologists.

Where Figueroa sees an ancient throne in a pile of rocks and a thousand-year-old flute player carved into the desert floor, for example, federal experts see something less profound. BLM archeologists believe the flute player and so-called Throne of Quetsequatle are less than 50 years old, with modern concrete used in the throne's construction.


(if they really are enviros and not a front for the oil/coal lobby).

I doubt one needs to look that far removed to find someone with a motive to sue. Likely many suits like these are cheaper to settle, than battle in court, in which case both the attorney, and the environmental or advocacy groups (both groups that are constantly looking for funding sources, since they don't make their income from producing a traditional product or service) get money.

I would especially not suspect the oil companies, since some of them are the ones being sued. Blythe Solar, one of the defendants is a partnership between Chevron and a German solar company.

28 February 2011, 0912
I agree with billmi's analysis. If you spend any time in government service, you learn how these games are played. They are played in the courts and the winner gets lots of money, which can be used to sue the next guy and pay themselves a nice salary, too. Meanwhile, many worthwhile projects go down the tubes - never to be seen again. No doubt someone could write a very large book about this game.