Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation v. United States Department of the Interior

927 F. Supp. 2d 921 (2013)

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Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation v. United States Department of the Interior

United States District Court for the Southern District of California
927 F. Supp. 2d 921 (2013)

  • Written by Tanya Munson, JD

Facts

In 2012, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) (defendant) approved the construction of the 112-turbine Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility (OWEF) in the Sonoran Desert. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) governed the BLM’s management and land-use planning of federal lands. Under the FLPMA, Congress established the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) to protect public lands in the California desert. BLM developed the CDCA plan. The CDCA plan divided lands under BLM management into four multiple-use classes, including class L for limited use. Public lands designated as class L were protected for their sensitive, natural, scenic, ecological, and cultural resource values and managed to control multiple-use resources while ensuring sensitive values were not diminished. Consumptive uses were permitted in class L lands so long as they would not degrade natural or cultural values. Class L lands allowed for wind use. The OWEF project was located on class L land, so the BLM prepared an environmental-impact statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The EIS concluded that the OWEF project would cause unavoidable adverse impacts on resources but that it would not significantly diminish or degrade the sensitive resource values. BLM concluded the importance of the OWEF project to California’s renewable energy objectives outweighed the environmental effects, which would be reduced with mitigation measures. The Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reserve (Quechan) (plaintiff) challenged the BLM’s approval of the OWEF in district court. Quechan argued that BLM violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) because the unavoidable adverse impacts of the OWEF project significantly diminished resource values. Quechan also argued that the OWEF project would unnecessarily and unduly degrade public land and that BLM violated the FLPMA by failing to consider alternative sites in the CDCA. BLM moved for summary judgment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Curiel, J.)

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