Steens Mountain wind project rejected: Onda v. Jewell

The Ninth District Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the Oregon Natural Desert Association, and rejected a wind turbine project on Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon. The 104-megawatt project proposed by  Columbia Energy Partners would have erected 70 wind turbines and a high-capacity transmission line on Steens Mountain. The approximately 100 MW Echanis project would be sent power to Southern California as part of an agreement with Southern California Edison. The project also included a high-capacity transmission lines that cut across potential sage grouse habitat within the protected Steens Cooperative Project. A summary of the order is provided below. The full decision can be found by clicking the links on this page. Also attached to this page are the legal arguments presented by the government and by the environmental groups from March 2016.


The panel reversed in part the district court’s summary judgment in favor of defendants in an action challenging under the National Environmental Policy Act a wind-energy development project on the ground that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s environmental review of the project did not adequately address impacts to the greater sage grouse. The panel held that BLM’s review did not adequately assess baseline sage grouse numbers during winter at the proposed Echanis wind energy facility in Harney County, Oregon. The panel also held that the BLM’s error was not harmless. Accordingly, the panel reversed the district court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of the BLM, Harney County, and Columbia Energy Partners, the project developer, as to that issue.

The panel also held that because plaintiffs did not bring the issue of inter-population or genetic connectivity between sage grouse populations to the BLM’s attention during the environmental review process, the issue was not exhausted and is not now subject to review.


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MAY 27 2016
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