Ocotillo Express

ECM EARNS 11 AWARDS AT SAN DIEGO PRESS CLUB CEREMONY

8 of 11 awards recognize ECM's in-depth coverage of energy issues in our region

By Miriam Raftery

October 23, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – Continuing our proud tradition, East County Magazine was once again among the top recipients of honors at tonight’s San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards.  All entries were in the Daily Newspapers and Websites category, going up against the major print newspapers and online news sites in our region.

The majority of the honors recognized ECM's in-depth coverage of the impacts of major energy projects, including industrial wind turbines, on local rural, mountain and desert communities. ECM editor Miriam Raftery won nine awards, including a first place award in general news for Silence of the Lambs: U.S. Government authorizes killing of endangered bighorns in path of wind project.   Raftery and ECM intern Mia Myklebust shared an additional first place award in the public service/consumer advocacy category for Jacumba: A town surrounded. That story focused on the impacts of major energy projects on a small rural community.

Scroll down to see our full list of winners and read the winning entries.

PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: A TOWN SURROUNDED

October 8, 2012 (Ocotillo) – Photographer Daren Sefcik visited Ocotillo in May, before construction began on the Ocotillo Express wind project, then returned on October 3.

Through still photos and dramatic panoramic videos that reveal 360 degree views, Sefcik documents turbines dwarfng mountains and looming in close proximity to homes. “The landscape has already been destroyed by Pattern [Energy] and it will never, ever be the same,” he said.

PROTESTERS HOLD FUNERAL TO MOURN ‘DEATH OF DESERT’ IN OCOTILLO, NOTE IRONY OF PUBLIC LANDS DAY

By Miriam Raftery

October 1, 2012 (Ocotillo) – “This project is completely wrong and it’s unethical,” said Anita Nicklen, one of dozens protesting on National Public Lands Day to draw attention to the destruction of public land in Ocotillo. “It’s our land and they’re building on public land. The desert is crying and weeping and bleeding.”

JUDGE HAYES DISMISSES RESIDENTS' LAWSUIT OVER OCOTILLO WIND

By Miriam Raftery

September 30, 2012 (Ocotillo ) -- U.S. District Court Judge William Hayes has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Community Advocates for Renewable Energy Stewardship (CARES).  The group sought an injunction to halt construction of the Ocotillo Express wind energy facility on public land.  Hayes ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing.  

PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: A WIND FARM RISES

September 21, 2012 (Ocotillo) -- Parke Ewing forwarded these images showing transformation of the desert landscape in Ocotillo, where public outcry and seven lawsuits have thus far failed to stop the Pattern Energy's wind project. 

The first image reveals excavation for just one of the 112 wind turbines; this hole measures 16 feet deep.  In the sunset shot, towering wind turbines now replace the century-old ocotillo forest that once stood here, sacrified for "green" energy.

TWO NEW LAWSUITS FILED OVER OCOTILLO WIND

By Miriam Raftery

September 13, 2012 (Ocotillo) – Two new lawsuits were filed September 11, 2012 against federal officials and the U.S. government seeking an injunction to halt construction at Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express industrial wind project. 

One suit targets U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials for allegedly violating the Endangered Species Act and failing to protect endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep.  Active signs of bighorn activity on the site have been spotted as recently as this week and photos clearly document recent sitings in the heart of the project.

The second suit takes aim at Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Department of Interior officials for ignoring  California Desert Conservation Area protections passed by Congress to conserve fragile desert areas for future generations. This suit alleges that officials also ignored many other laws intended to protect natural and cultural resources, views, archaeological sites, and the health of local residents.

WIND TURBINES ARRIVE IN OCOTILLO AS RESIDENTS COMPLAIN OF “DUST BOWL” , THIRD WORLD CONDITIONS AT PATTERN ENERGY'S OCOTILLO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Story by Miriam Raftery; photos by Jim Pelley and Parke Ewing

"I feel like we are living in a third world country." -- Jim Pelley, Ocotillo resident and ECM photographer

August 23, 2012 (Ocotillo) – Workers have begun constructing the first of 112 industrial wind turbines near the small town of Ocotillo on federal Bureau of Land Management property adjacent to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. 

But as towering turbines eclipse mountains and desert skies, dust released from scraping desert soils bare and excavating massive turbine foundations have residents complaining that their community has been turned into a “dust bowl” while government officials turn a blind eye to conditions that pose hazards to their health.

BULLDOZERS SILENCED AS OCOTILLO RESIDENTS TAKE A ‘STAND IN THE SAND”

By Miriam Raftery

August 14, 2012 (Ocotillo) – Like a mirage rippling across the desert, they came.  

A caravan of vehicles rumbled into the Ocotillo Express wind construction site on Saturday, filled with area residents and tribal members from across the southwest prepared to form a blockade to halt the project that is destroying their community.  They came from as far away as Yuma, Arizona, and Los Angeles to take a stand in the sand.

But on this sweltering August morning, the bulldozers were silent—and the protesters claimed victory.

COURT HEARING SEPT. 7 FOR RESIDENTS SEEKING TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AGAINST OCOTILLO EXPRESS WIND

 

Pattern has created an “imminent harm to public safety”, suit alleges

By Miriam Raftery

August 14, 2012 (Ocotillo) – The U.S. District Court in San Diego will hear a case filed by a group of Ocotillo residents, Community Advocates for Renewable Energy Stewardship [CARES] requesting a temporary restraining order to shut down construction on Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express wind project.

According to the suit, a Pattern Energy employee filed a declaration revealing that Pattern never engineered or submitted final grading plans. The wind developer claimed “very little actual grading” while in fact grading 149 acres of underground trenches, 286 acrsd of turbine pads and 42 miles of roads, some three times as wide as the project approvals allowed. 

Plaintiffs allege that Pattern and the Bureau of Land Management “have created an imminent harm to public safety by approving the installation of the cheapest and weakest type of wind turbine foundation…without geotechnical or structural engineering to ensure compliance with State and Federal standards.”

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: OCOTILLO SUNRISE

August 13, 2012 (Ocotillo) -- ECM photographer Jim Pelley shot this beautiful sunrise this morning from the yard at his home in Ocotillo. 

Soon this dramatic landscape may be only a memory, vanished in the dust as towering ocotillo cacti are torn down and replaced by 112 wind turbines, each 500 feet tall. 

AWASH IN COMPLAINTS, OCOTILLO RESIDENTS SEEK PROTECTION FROM WIND DEVELOPER’S ACTIONS

By Miriam Raftery

July 24, 2012 (Ocotillo) – On Friday the 13th of July, foaming  floodwaters rushed through the town of Ocotillo, leaving a white chemical residue behind on lawns, streets, and the surrounding desert floor. 

Despite numerous complaints to federal, state and local officials, however, nothing has been done to test the residue or correct a drainage pattern altered by Pattern Energy’s construction at the adjacent Ocotillo Express industrial wind site on Bureau of Land Management property.

The flooding is the latest in a long string of problems tied to Pattern and its subcontractors, which residents say have exhibited a pattern of breaking rules that protect public health and safety, with seemingly no serious consequences. 

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: SPACE INVADERS?

 

July 25, 2012 (Ocotillo) – No, this isn’t the mother ship that’s landed in Ocotillo. It’s another alien power – the first wind turbine foundation poured at Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express project.  Photographer Jim Pelley measured a single turbine foundation hole measures 286 feet.

DOG TEAMS SEARCH FOR NATIVE AMERICAN REMAINS IN MCCAIN VALLEY , OCOTILLO AND JACUMBA

 

Canines identify dozens of sites in path of wind and power line projects

 

Wind developers “cooperate” with tribes on searches-- but SDG&E refuses to allow dogs on its ECO-Substation site

 

 

Story by Miriam Raftery

Photos by Tom and Nadin Abbott, Miriam Raftery, and Jim Pelley

July 18, 2012 (McCain Valley) – Weaving across cactus-studded terrain in McCain Valley, Piper, a border collie trained to find ancient human remains, pauses to sniff the ground.  Ears erect, he sits, alerting handler Lynne Engelbert, who records the GPS coordinates. (Click video to view.) Minutes later, Piper’s find is independently confirmed by a second search dog.

SDG&E ENERGIZES SUNRISE POWERLINK


117-mile, 500,000-volt transmission line improves electricity reliability, but increases concerns over fire safety for region

 June 21, 2012 (San Diego) – San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E)  announced June 18 that it had completed and put into service Sunrise Powerlink, a 500,000-volt transmission line linking San Diego to Imperial Valley.  

“Putting the Sunrise Powerlink into service is the final milestone in a complex and challenging energy project that ranks among the largest and most significant in the history of San Diego Gas & Electric,” said Jessie J. Knight, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of SDG&E.

GROUP FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST PATTERN ENERGY AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, ALLEGES "ILLEGAL" ACTIONS OVER OCOTILLO WIND PROJECT

 

By Miriam Raftery

Government accused of illegally approving “ineligible” project that failed to meet minimum federal wind speed standards

Violations of other laws alleged, including discrimination against low-income residents

June 20, 2012 (Ocotillo) –A fourth lawsuit seeking to halt the Ocotillo Express wind facility has been filed in federal court.  The plaintiff in this case, Community Advocates for Renewable Energy Stewardship, filed suit yesterday against Pattern Energy, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management and top government officials.

The suit, which seeks a permanent enjoinment or halt to the project, differs from prior lawsuits filed by other groups on several fronts.

ALL-NIGHT WAKE: PUBLIC IMPLORED TO JOIN TRIBES AT OCOTILLO WIND SITE


East County Magazine to form carpools from San Diego to desert vigil June 23-24

By Miriam Raftery

June 13, 2012 (Ocotillo) –  As bulldozers raze their ancestors’ graves, Native American tribes across the southwest are asking for the public’s help to stop the desecration. 

If you believe this heartbreak funded by taxpayer dollars is wrong, please join with tribes of all nations to take a spiritual stand together against despoilment of these once protected desert lands for private corporate gain.

Determined to halt the Pattern Energy's Ocotillo Express wind energy project, tribes of all nations will gather for a traditional dusk-to-dawn ceremony to mourn disruption of their ancestors' burial sites. From 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 23 to dawn on Sunday, June 24, members of the public are encouraged to join with Native American neighbors in the Ocotillo desert for these spiritual ceremonies.

BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND: OCOTILLO RESIDENTS DECRY DUST RAISED BY WIND PROJECT

 By: Miriam Raftery

June 13, 2012 (Ocotillo) – Why hasn’t the Bureau of Land Management taken steps to protect Ocotillo area residents from clouds of dust in an area with high rates of childhood asthma and where soil reportedly contains potentially deadly Valley Fever spores?

Despite numerous complaints including photos and videos of dust billowing up from construction activities at Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express wind energy site, the apparent health hazard continues. 

TRIBAL MEMBERS HOLD VIGIL AT OCOTILLO WIND SITE

Public asked to join with tribes on June 23



“The snake was moved but kept coming back, just like our people.  We will continue to keep coming back.” – Preston Arrowweed, Quechan elder. He believes unusual animal visitations at site are signs from Indian spirits, asking his people to help.

By Miriam Raftery

Jim Pelley, Denee ‘Estevane’ Woolley, and Susan Massey also contributed to this report

June 7, 2012 (Ocotillo)—Neither blistering heat nor blowing dust dissuaded Native Americans from at least four tribes from taking part in a five-day occupation in Ocotillo last week. 

They came to be with the spirits of their ancestors.  They also aim to show that desert devastation occurring with construction of the Ocotillo Express wind facility is wrong and must be stopped. 

THIRD LAWSUIT FILED OVER OCOTILLO EXPRESS WIND

May 27, 2012 (Ocotillo) –The Protect Our Communities Foundation, Backcountry Against Dumps, and Donna Tisdale of Boulevard are suing the Imperial County Board of Supervisors and Pattern Energy.

JUDGE TO CONSIDER RESTRAINING ORDER TO HALT OCOTILLLO WIND FRIDAY IN SAN DIEGO FEDERAL COURT

By Miriam Raftery

May 16, 2012 (San Diego) – On Friday at 2 p.m., a federal judge will consider a temporary restraining order motion filed by the Quechan Indian tribe seeking to halt construction at the Ocotillo Express wind facility site on federal land.

Despite discovery of six more cremation sites with what are believed to be human remains (12 sites total) that federal law requires be preserved, Pattern Energy is moving forward with heavy equipment, destroying vast acreage in the fragile Yuha desert near Ocotillo.

SUIT FILED TO HALT OCOTILLO WIND AS COALITION HOLDS PROTESTS IN SAN DIEGO AND EL CENTRO

 

“This is nothing more than a public land grab for private profit. The BLM is literally giving this away to corporations…This may be out in the desert today, but tomorrow it could be in your backyard…Already over a dozen projects are proposed in San Diego and Imperial County.” – Robert Scheid, Viejas media relations

May 16, 2012 (La Jolla) – At a press conference yesterday outside the gleaming corporate towers occupied by Pattern Energy in La Jolla, a coalition of environmental groups, Native American tribes and outraged citizens urged President Barack Obama to stop fast-tracking of massive energy projects on public lands and halt construction at the Ocotillo Express wind facility immediately.

Heavy equipment has begun grading the site, ripping massive ocotillo cacti out by the roots, burying burrowing owl nesting sites and breaking hearts of the many people who love this  desert land.

ECM contacted the White House to request an interview with President Obama. No response has been received.

PROTEST AT PATTERN ENERGY TUESDAY: COALITION OF COMMUNITY GROUPS OUTRAGED BY U.S. INTERIOR SECRETARY’S DECISION TO APPROVE WIND TURBINES IN OCOTILLO

May 14, 2012 (La Jolla) -- A coalition of environmentalists, tribes, and residents opposed to the Ocotillo Express industrial wind facility will hold a news conference Tuesday, May 15 at 2 p.m.

READER’S EDITORIAL: PATTERN OF DECEIT

How did the number of homes powered by the Ocotillo wind project get reduced to just one-fifth of what Pattern has been promising?

By Jim Pelley

May 12, 2012 (Ocotillo)--Pattern Energy does a very good job deceiving the people. For example, all throughout the Ocotillo Wind Energy Project process Pattern Energy has been making statements deceiving the press, public and officials about the number of homes this facility will produce power for. Pattern’s website states: “The project will produce enough clean and renewable wind energy to serve more than 130,000 households a year. http://www.patternenergy.com/media/news/announcements/ocotillo_011312

COALITION OF TRIBES, ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERS & LAWYERS CALL FOR HALT TO "FAST TRACKING" OF MASSIVE ENERGY PROJECTS ON FEDERAL PUBLIC LANDS

“We are the canaries in the coal mine. If this is not stopped here, destruction of millions of acres of public lands across the southwest will likely soon follow.” -- Terry Weiner, Desert Protective Council

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

May 11, 2012 (Ocotillo) -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today signed the Record of Decision, giving a go-ahead for the contentious Ocotillo Express wind project. 

The announcement came just hours after a coalition of environmental leaders, tribal representatives, off-road vehicle users, outdoor enthusiasts, residents and legal spokespersons called for a national moratorium on the "fast tracking" of massive energy projects on federal public lands.

EDITORIAL: SUPERVISORS SHOULD DENY PATTERN ENERGY APPLICATION FOR OCOTILLO EXPRESS WIND

By Miriam Raftery, Editor, East County Magazine

April 23, 2012 (Ocotillo) – In San Diego earlier this month, the county's planning commission heeded concerns of residents, environmentalists, tribes and health experts who voiced alarm over harmful impacts of industrial wind turbines. Planners voted to postpone enacting a wind ordinance and more fully study the issues. Their remarks made clear that most planners had serious reservations about potential impacts on human health, wildlife, cultural resources, environment, character of rural communities and public lands. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9354

This was not the case with planners in Imperial County, who ignored a mountain of evidence as well as legitimate community concerns. Their zeal to rubberstamp a project that promises tax revenues and temporary jobs, along with renewable power, clearly came at the expense of public health and safety, protection of resources on public lands, and the long-held rights of Native Americans. http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/9173

Imperial Valley Supervisors should reverse their planning commission’s decision and reject Pattern Energy’s proposed Ocotillo Express wind project.  Here are compelling reasons why.

WHO IS PATTERN ENERGY?

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 23, 2012 (Ocotillo) – The wind industry has been likened to the wildcatters during the oil boom – risk takers seeking out ever more land on which to extract energy to fuel our nation’s power demands.  While some energy companies have made efforts to be good corporate citizens, profits in the energy industry have attracted some players of dubious integrity. (Remember those ENRON traders caught on tape boasting about defrauding grandmothers?)

Thus it’s important for decision makers weighing whether or not to approve major energy projects to consider, among other factors, the ethical record of the project applicant.

Pattern Energy seeks to build the Ocotillo Express wind facility on Bureau of Land Management property in Imperial County.  It also has an application pending for a wind project in the Kitchen Creek area near Campo, in San Diego County.

USING RADAR TO CONTROL WIND TURBINES AND REDUCE BIRD KILLS: DOES IT WORK?



By Serena Scaglione and Miriam Raftery

April 22, 2012 (Ocotillo)-One of the major criticisms of wind energy facilities is the deadly impact of the fast-whirling blades on birds.  Most notoriously, thousands of golden eagles have been killed at the Altamont wind farm; however significant numbers of bird deaths have occurred at many other wind facilities.

Now, wind farm developers are touting radar systems similar to those used by the U.S. Air Force and NASA.  In aviation, the technology detects large flocks of incoming birds and is sold to avoid bird collisions with aircraft.  At wind facilities, avian radar in theory offers the potential reduce bird kills by shutting off turbines before birds reach the blades. 

Just how effective these systems are at wind facilities, however, remains debatable.

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