HOUSE BILL WOULD MAKE IT COSTLY FOR PLAINTIFFS WHO SUE TO BLOCK ENERGY PROJECTS ON TRIBAL LANDS

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Bill would also ban public from accessing environmental impacts of tribal projects

By Miriam Raftery

July 5, 2012 (Washington D.C.) –The Native American Energy Act, HR 3973, has been approved by the House Natural Resources Committee. The bill, which seeks to remove “bureaucratic obstacles” to energy production on tribal lands, would also severely impede residents, environmentalists or even neighboring tribes who file lawsuits to stop tribal energy projects.

The bill would require plaintiffs who succeed in getting a preliminary injunction or administrative stay to halt tribal energy projects to post a bond and further, subjects plaintiffs to liability for harm to the defendant if the defendant ultimately prevails.  The bill would also ban plaintiffs in energy-related actions against the federal government from receiving certain federal payments for their fees or expenses.

The combined impact of this could have a chilling effect on plaintiffs current rights to seek redress in court for harmful impacts of energy projects on tribal lands to neighboring communities, such as negative health impacts, noise, or pollution. 

That’s a key concern in San Diego County, which has 19 Native American reservations—more than any county in America.  In East County, the Campo Indian tribe seeks to triple the size of its wind energy facility. Members of the neighboring Manzanita tribe are alleging health impacts from existing turbines on Campo tribal lands.  Residents on non-tribal lands adjacent to the proposed expansion area have voiced concerns over potential impacts on their communities.  Some other tribes are considering energy development, including additional wind turbines.

 “We would lose a lot of rights. That’s incredibly biased—wow,” said Donna Tisdale, chair of the Boulevard Planning Commission and a plaintiff in several lawsuits seeking to halt industrial-scale energy projects in the backcountry. “It raises some very serious complications for people defending themselves.”

 Right now four Indian energy projects are proposed in the Boulevard area on tribal lands, she noted.  “People assume that green energy projects are clean, but some have serious adverse health effects that are equal if not more problematic than a gas-fired or coal-fired power plant health-wise.”

The Shu’luuk Wind project proposed by the Campo Indians includes two third parties, SDG&E and Invenergy.  “Currently under federal law if there is a third party involved in an Indian reservation then they have to go through the process,” said Tisdale. “I don’t know if this will affect that or not.”

In addition to the legal hurdles it seeks to impose, HR 3973 would also deny the public the right to access environmental impact statements for projects on Indian lands; if passed the bill would restrict such access only to the affected Indian tribe and individuals residing within the affected area.  Thus organizations such as environmental or wildlife protection groups would no longer have access to key information on tribal energy projects’ impacts.

There are many other provisions in the bill that could impact the rights of tribe and the public, as well as open up tribal forest lands for biomass energy production demonstration projects. The bill covers not only renewable energy projects, but conventional energy development such as oil drilling as well.

HR 3973 is one of two Republican sponsored bills aimed at streamlining “duplicative and unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles to onshore American energy and mineral production while encouraging job creation,” according to a press released issued by the House Natural Resources Committee. 

The other, HR 4402, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012,  would deem a mine providing critical minerals to be an infrastructure project” under a presidential order  for improving permitting and review of infrastructure projects. It would further set forth responsibilities of lead agencies for issuing mineral exploration or mining permits, among other things.  

 For details, see the House Natural Resource Committee’s press release, the GovTrack analysis of HR 3973 and HR 4402.

 

 

 

 

Comments

Exactly right. These projects

Exactly right.

These projects are nothing more than (terribly expensive) exercises in progressive political posturing. Wind power is a scam--completely inadequate to modern energy needs. And the cost is tremendous, both in terms of what they take to build and the terrible, irreversible damage they do to the wilderness, and the flora and fauna it supports.

Wind energy corruption

The congressman and senators who support wind development must be beholding to wind lobbyists because wind energy is a complete sham. If we are going to combat climate change we need solutions that do just that. However, INDUSTRIAL WIND TURBINES DO NOT PROVIDE CLEAN ENERGY and do practically nothing to mitigate climate change! Not one coal or gas plant the world over has been decommissioned because of IWTs...and eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels is their stated purpose. To quote an expert: "Because wind blows intermittently, electric utilities must either keep their conventional power plants running all the time to make sure the lights don't go dark, or continually ramp up and down the output from conventional coal-or gas-fired generators (called "cycling"). But coal-fired and gas-fired generators are designed to run continuously, and if they don't, fuel consumption and emissions generally increase." This is happening worldwide, and in places like Colorado and Texas where CO2 and power plant pollution have increased since installing wind farms:
http://www.forbes.com/2011/07/19/wind-energy-carbon.html http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_15081808
http://www.clepair.net/IerlandUdo.html
http://www.thespec.com/news/ontario/article/610422--cost-of-green-energy...
http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-07-25/news/bs-ed-wind-farms-201107...
The wind industry is built on crony capitalism, it is the only way it can exist. Taxpayer money builds them and power companies are mandated to buy wind generated power at much higher rates than conventionally produced power. There is no true benefit, except to wind power companies, politicians and lobbyists. If Renewable Energy Credits were only issued for carbon reduced instead of megawatts produced, there would be no wind turbines as they don't significantly reduce carbon.

When is enough enough?

You would think by now the great socialist experiment called the Bureau of Indian Affairs would have been disbanded? Is it not possible for the Native Americans to govern their own lands? Do we still belive we need a "nanny" state to guide these people and if so to what end? As we have found out from the War on Poverty, to the War on Drugs and, as we will soon learn with the new national health care system, the national government CANNOT MANAGE ANYTHING!

Have we truely become so lazy as a nation that we want the federal government to manage all our affairs or is it time we stand up and JUST SAY NO? Is this the country we want to leave to our children and grand children? I for one think not.