Native Americans sue to halt California solar projects

San Diego, California (AP) January 2011

A Native American cultural protection group has sued the federal government over the expedited approval of six solar projects in Southern California.

The La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Site Protection Circle and five individuals filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Diego alleging the process violates laws protecting burial grounds and cultural resources.

The group wants to yank approvals for projects in San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial counties, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported last week.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management called tribes but never held formal consultations about the projects as required by federal law, said Cory Briggs, an attorney for the group.

Over the last year, Bureau officials sped up reviews to try to ready projects for construction so they would qualify for federal stimulus subsidies, the newspaper reported.

The Bureau is reviewing the lawsuit, David Briery, an agency spokesman, told the newspaper.

Only one of the projects is currently under construction. BrightSource Energy Co. started work on the Ivanpah project in San Bernardino County in October.

BrightSource officials could not be reached for comment but in the past said the company had applied to use the land four years ago, which gave Native Americans enough time to comment, the newspaper reported.