A Roundup of Tribal Views on Energy Projects

Photo is from AP story on SunZia transmission line (see last story below).


Utes Supports Rail Transport of Crude Oil.  These Utes seem fairly invisible in the media reports on  the Forest Service permit for the oil train.  I looked at several news stories about the Forest Service decision on the railroad. The AP story did not mention the Utes.  All of the Colorado stories I reviewed did not mention them. Only the Salt Lake City Tribune, in my review, mentioned them.

The Ute Indian Tribe, whose reservation is in the Uinta Basin, and Utah’s elected officials support the railway, arguing that it would boost struggling local economies and aid domestic energy production.

Here’s a link to an op-ed I think I posted before. Title:  “Opinion: Blocking the Uinta Basin Railway is another injustice to the Ute Indian Tribe Hickenlooper, Bennet and Polis are wrong to oppose this project needed for the reservations.”  It’s one thing for your opinions to be ignored; it’s another to be mostly invisible to the media, at least compared to the examples below.

Tribes Against Uranium Mine.

Grand Canyon -Guardian Article

“There are so many reasons why this mine doesn’t belong where it is,” said Amber Reimondo, the energy director with the Grand Canyon Trust, an environmental group focused on protecting the region. “And the fact that it is allowed to operate is a stark example of the weaknesses in our regulatory system.”

Across the south-west, local communities and tribes have been pushing back against uranium mining proposals, including in Utah, where the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is concerned about air pollution from a nearby Energy Fuels mill facility. Similar tensions have arisen around lithium mining in the west, as a need for the metal in clean energy components grows.

Tribe Against Wind Turbines.

Federal Judge Sides With Osage Nation, Orders Removal Of 84 Wind Turbines

Tribes Against Transmission Lines

From the AP yesterday.

Pattern Energy officials said Tuesday that the time has passed to reconsider the route, which was approved in 2015 following a review process.

“It is unfortunate and regrettable that after a lengthy consultation process, where certain parties did not participate repeatedly since 2009, this is the path chosen at this late stage,” Pattern Energy spokesperson Matt Dallas said in an email.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Tohono O’odham Nation, the San Carlos Apache Tribe and the nonprofit organizations Center for Biological Diversity and Archaeology Southwest.

“The case for protecting this landscape is clear,” Archaeology Southwest said in a statement that calls the San Pedro Arizona’s last free-flowing river and the valley the embodiment of a “unique and timely story of social and ecological sustainability across more than 12,000 years of cultural and environmental change.”

The valley represents a 50-mile (80-kilometer) stretch of the planned 550-mile (885-kilometer) conduit expected to carry electricity from new wind farms in central New Mexico to existing transmission lines in Arizona to serve populated areas as far away as California. The project has been called an important part of President Joe Biden’s goal for a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.

Work started in September in New Mexico after negotiations that spanned years and resulted in the approval from the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency with authority over vast parts of the U.S. West.

The route in New Mexico was modified after the U.S. Defense Department raised concerns about the effects of high-voltage lines on radar systems and military training operations.

Work halted briefly in November amid pleas by tribes to review environmental approvals for the San Pedro Valley, and resumed weeks later in what Tohono O’odham Chairman Verlon M. Jose characterized as “a punch to the gut.”

SunZia expects the transmission line to begin commercial service in 2026, carrying more than 3,500 megawatts of wind power to 3 million people. Project officials say they conducted surveys and worked with tribes over the years to identify cultural resources in the area.

A photo included in the court filing shows an aerial view in November of ridgetop access roads and tower sites being built west of the San Pedro River near Redrock Canyon. Tribal officials and environmentalists say the region is otherwise relatively untouched.

Yakama Tribe and Washington State Land and Solar

From High Country News.

3 thoughts on “A Roundup of Tribal Views on Energy Projects”

    • But the Osage also don’t want them the turbines there.
      “Daniels and other Osage tribal members opposed the project because of its potential intrusion on sacred burial sites, as well as the 420-foot-high turbines’ deadly impact on eagles. In 2021, I interviewed Joe Conner, a tribal member and publisher of The Fairfax Chief. Conner, who passed away on September 12, 2023, told me, “Many tribal members have objections because of the fear of damaging the environment, sacred birds, particularly eagles, that would be caught up in the turbine blades.””

  1. Here’s more on the SunZia transmission lines and the case filed January 17 (Tohono O’odham Nation v. U. S. Department of the Interior, D. Arizona) from a native news source (which includes a link to the complaint). https://indianz.com/News/2024/01/24/tribes-taken-biden-administration-to-court-over-4-billion-energy-project/

    And their reply to … “It is unfortunate and regrettable that after a lengthy consultation process, where certain parties did not participate repeatedly since 2009, this is the path chosen at this late stage,” Pattern Energy spokesperson Matt Dallas said in an email.

    “The O’odham and our ancestors the Hohokam have deep cultural and historical connections to the San Pedro Valley, with many sites of great significance,” Jose said in the release. “We have made BLM and the Pattern Energy aware of this, but their disregard for the NHPA process has put these cultural sites in danger of irreparable harm. They must change course, immediately stop all ground clearing activity, and work with us to protect these sites as required by federal law.”

    “Tribes are some of the leading supporters of alternative energy solutions,” O’odham Chairman Jose said on Wednesday. “However, there has been a pattern of bad faith going back many years. What else can you call the recent decision to halt construction to hold consultations, and then start up construction again? Consultations to protect sacred areas while construction is already ongoing, and the route for the transmission line is already selected and non-negotiable, shows clear bad faith on the part of the federal government.”

    “I think, personally, that tribes are in favor of clean energy and wanting to do these projects that are light hand on the land and better for our environment,” Reno Keoni Franklin, the chairman of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians, based in California, said on the Native America Calling radio show on Wednesday. “But my stern warning to federal agencies has always been the same: Not on the backs of Indian tribes,” added Franklin, who also serves on the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency that was created by the NHPA.

    I’ve seen what looks like “talking past each other” in other disagreements with tribal entities. I’ve wondered if it is partly a cultural difference, but it is also true that the bar for “government to government” consultation is higher than for the general public.

    Another little tidbit included in the article: “Pattern Energy’s defense team boasts a heavy hitter in Hilary Tompkins, a citizen of the Navajo Nation who made history during the Obama administration as the first Native person to serve as Solicitor at the Department of the Interior, where she was in charge of the agency’s legal affairs. She now works at the Logan Hovells law firm in the nation’s capital and is the only Washington, D.C., based attorney on the developer’s motion to intervene.”


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