indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Dynamic Homes
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Judge won't block drilling near sacred site in Calif.
Thursday, March 11, 2004

A federal judge last month refused to overturn the Bush administration's approval of a power plant on sacred land in California even though two federal agencies acknowledge the project will have significant "adverse" impacts on several tribes.

A coalition led by the Pit River Tribe is fighting Calpine Corporation's proposed geo-thermal plant in the Medicine Lake Highlands. The area is home to the sacred Medicine Lake, which the Pit River, Modoc, Shasta, Karuk and Wintun tribes use for healing powers and where traditional healers from other tribes go for guidance.

In May 2000, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service issued a joint decision denying development in the Telephone Flats part of the highlands while allowing exploration at a location known as Fourmile Hill. However, the agencies imposed a five-year moratorium on drilling in Fourmile Hill pending further studies of the impacts on traditional cultural sites and the environment.

But in June 2001, after significant lobbying and a lawsuit by Calpine, the 10th largest energy company in the U.S., the Bush administration not only lifted the moratorium in Fourmile Hill, it reversed the Telephone Flat denial. Officials cited new policy, then-fresh from the White House energy task force led by Vice President Dick Cheney, that called for more development on federal lands and expedited review of drilling projects.

The Pit River Tribe and the Native Coalition for Medicine Lake Highlands filed an administrative challenge but it was rejected, leading to the federal court lawsuit on the Fourmile Hill issue. After holding a hearing last September, U.S. District Judge David F. Levi issued a ruling February 13 concluding that the coalition failed to show why the geo-thermal plant should be blocked.

In rejecting several challenges the tribal plaintiffs raised, Levi said he was not commenting on the merits of the project. He noted that federal officials admitted the plant would impact how tribal members use the area and could end up preventing them from exercising their religions.

But he said his role was "not to review the substance" of a project that would impact the sacred area. "The court's role is to review compliance with these procedures," he wrote, referring to several federal laws governing historic sites, environmental policy, forest management and energy development.

The Pit River Tribe also contended that the government violated its trust responsibilities. Levi, however, said two agencies do not have a specific duty to protect sacred sites on land that is owned by the federal government and not held in trust for the tribe.

"Although there may e a general fiduciary duty of the federal government owed to Indians, 'unless there is a specific duty that has been placed on the government with respect to Indians, this responsibility is discharged by the agency’s compliance with general regulations and statutes not specifically aimed at protecting Indians,'" he wrote, citing a 1998 decision involving another California tribe.

The Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, another plaintiff in the case, said the coalition was considering an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. A separate lawsuit challenging the Telephone Flat reversal is being re-evaluated.

At a June 2003 hearing before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Gene Preston, a Pit River council member, testified against the development. He said the power plant will yield very little power at the expense of his tribe's cultural survival.

"Where is the equation that says trading our culture is worth the gain?" he told the committee. "The profit is privatized while the impacts become the burden of Native Americans, society, animals and future generations."

Get the Decision:
Pit River Tribe v. BLM (February 13, 2004)

Relevant Documents:
Proposed Geothermal Development Project for Medicine Lake Highlands - Records of Decision (Bureau of Land Management [note: does not include reversal of decisions])

Relevant Links:
Medicine Lake Video - http://www.medicinelakevideo.org
Medicine Lake Information - http://www.sacredland.org/medicine_lake.html
Calpine Corporation - http://www.calpine.com

Related Stories:
Bush judicial nominee blasted by Democrats (02/06)
Lawsuit seeks to stop drilling in sacred Mount Shasta (10/20)
Calif. tribes oppose power plant (07/17)
Protections for sacred sites called inadequate (06/19)
Norton reopens sacred site controversy (09/30)
Sacred site bill increases tribal voice (07/19)
Senate dives into sacred site debate (06/05)
Congress considering sacred sites (5/21)
Tribes push action on sacred sites (3/21)
Tribe prevails on sacred site case (3/19)
Norton denies politics played role in drilling (6/7)
Norton hit on exploration of sacred site (6/6)
Myers reversing sacred site opinion (10/25)
Bush nominee has no 'agenda' on Clinton decisions (6/21)

Copyright © 2000-2004 Indianz.Com
More headlines...

Latest Headlines:

'Ominous shadow' of President Trump looms over annual meeting of tribal leaders
Senate narrowly approves budget resolution without taking up pro-tribal provisions
Native Sun News Today: Tribes decry court ruling favoring Dakota Access Pipeline
Ivan Star Comes Out: Only dictators demand for their citizens to 'respect the flag'
Decision day for National Congress of American Indians with leadership changes
House subcommittee takes up controversial American Indian Empowerment Act
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs schedules hearing on public safety measures
Arne Vainio: I wanted you to know you are loved and that I am bringing you home
Albert Bender: Native community celebrates Indigenous Peoples' Day in Nashville
Native Sun News Today: Student speaks out about racism in South Dakota school
James Giago Davies: School fumbles historic opportunity after incident of racism
Tribes open their doors in response to devastating wildfires in northern California
National Congress of American Indians looks ahead to Tara Sweeney confirmation
Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs sign agreement for Cobell buy-back program
Alaska Native executive Tara Sweeney named to top Bureau of Indian Affairs job
Tribes slam Trump administration for adding hurdles to land-into-trust process
Native Sun News Today: Native Americans are over-represented in county's jail
Tim Giago: Clones in Congress won't stand up to the Clown in the White House
Mark Trahant: Exploring the 'business' of news in Indian Country these days
Native Sun News Today: Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate debuts new grocery store
Bears Ears remains in limbo as Republicans leave tribes out of monument bill
Mark Trahant: Trump brings more chaos to health coverage for tribal citizens
YES! Magazine: Tribal hospital in Alaska brings traditional foods to patients
Native Sun News Today: Tribal leaders absent at border town liquor summit
Native Sun News Today Editorial: Teams continue to denigrate Indian people
Secretary Zinke requires special flag to be flown when he's in Interior building
Lawsuit seeks damages for death of girl at Bureau of Indian Education school
President of Northern Cheyenne Tribe remains in office after disputed removal
Republican candidate questions mural for depicting Indian people as too 'dark'
Bureau of Indian Affairs supports name change for 'Negro Bill Canyon' in Utah
Aroostook Band of Micmacs backs ballot referendum for new casino in Maine
Gun Lake Tribe secures strong local support in casino case except for one town
Second federal appeals court chimes in with decision favoring tribal homelands
Harold Frazier: Another incident of racism targets Native youth in South Dakota
Native American Voting Rights Coalition convenes second hearing in Wisconsin
Yurok Tribe welcomes introduction of bill to add important lands to reservation
YES! Magazine: Native family uses energy proceeds to benefit Indian Country
Native Sun News Today: Oglala Sioux Tribe refutes rumors of Black Hills 'sale'
James Giago Davies: A best friend sticks with us even at the very end of life
Cronkite News: Republicans quickly move bill to limit new national monuments
Raymond Hitchcock: Sorry but tribal casinos aren't linked to increases in crime
Osage Nation prepared to fight state over water rights on historic reservation
Eastern Cherokee council complete after second round of voting for one seat
Iowa Tribe announces 'Monsterous' deal linked to long-delayed poker website
Squaxin Island Tribe holds grand opening for remodeled hotel tower at casino
Judge deals tribes major setback with decision in Dakota Access Pipeline case
YES! Magazine: Winnemem Wintu Tribe struggles to bring salmon back home
Native Sun News Today: Rapid City turns out for Native American Day parade
Ivan Star Comes Out: Our teachers shouldn't be doing the jobs of the parents
Non-Indian parents file lawsuit to halt transfer of child custody cases to tribes
County in Oregon holds public hearing on name of 'Dead Indian Memorial Road'
Swinomish Tribe set to open substance abuse treatment center in Washington
All-Native band Warpath from California mixes heavy metal with tribal elements
Ramapough Lunaape Nation defends right to host prayer camp in New Jersey
Chehalis Tribe working with local authorities on fatal shooting outside casino
>>> more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.