Library filed under Legal from Nevada
A federal appeals court has dismissed a Virginia energy company's request to overturn a federal judge's ruling last year that threw out the Obama administration's approval of what was projected to be Nevada's largest wind power project.
Utility regulators argued the new rates, implemented over the next 12 years, were necessary to accurately account for the cost of serving solar customers. They also said that their decision adhered to legislation that gave the commission authority to set new rates.
"The Searchlight Wind project area is next to a national recreation area and has the highest concentrations of desert tortoises and golden eagle nests in Nevada," said Dave Becker, a Portland, Ore.-based lawyer representing the two groups and three residents challenging the project. "It's a stupid place for a wind project." But more than that, Becker said, the order exposes what he calls BLM's rush, at least in the first few years of the Obama administration, to approve commercial-scale renewables projects on federal lands.
Judge Du found that environmental analyses prepared by the BLM and USFWS inadequately evaluated the dangers that the industrial-scale wind project would pose to desert wildlife. She cited data missing from the agency surveys, inadequate assessment of potential threats to golden eagles, desert tortoises, and bats, and the need for additional explanation of the agencies’ conclusions.
The U.S. District Court in Nevada has ordered that the federal Record of Decision, Final Environmental Impact Statement, and Biological Opinion issued on APEX Energy's Searchlight Wind project be vacated. A brief background is provided below. The vacate order can be accessed by clicking the links on this page.
On February 3, 2015, Judge Du had ordered BLM to prepare a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on eagles due to inadequate surveys. In 2011, surveys funded by BLM found twenty-eight golden eagle nests within 10 miles of the project site, many more than the three nests the developer reported in its flawed avian surveys.
Last week, a federal district court in Nevada ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) failed to adequately explain a decision to authorize a proposed wind energy project. The court remanded the decision to BLM for analysis the court determined to be absent from the administrative record and ordered the agency to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS).
In this important decision by the federal district court in Nevada, Judge Miranda M. Du found that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) did not sufficiently explain their decision to authorize the Searchlight Wind Energy Project (87 turbines) proposed on land south of Las Vegas, Nevada. The court remanded the decision to BLM for analysis and ordered the agency prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) to address new information regarding the presence of golden eagles within the project area. Concerns regarding the impact of blasting on desert tortoises were also cited. The full decision can be accessed by clicking the links on this page.
In April, attorneys filed in U.S. District Court of Nevada a lawsuit (Searchlight suit) accusing former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar of acting in “a manner that is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law” when he granted permission for construction of an 87-turbine wind farm east of Searchlight on 19,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land. The suit alleges the Final Environmental Impact Statement, on which Salazar based his approval, was written by consultants for Searchlight Wind Energy, which is owned by Duke Energy. The suit says the FEIS is a one-sided and an incomplete portrait of the project’s adverse environmental impacts.
Environmental groups and residents of Nevada have filed a complaint in U.S. District Court of Nevada challenging the Department of the Interior's permit granting Duke Energy permission to construct an 87-turbine wind energy facility east of Searchlight on 19,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land. Excerpts of the complaint are provided below. The plaintiffs argue that Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar acted in a manner that was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law. The full complaint can be accessed by clicking on the link(s) at the bottom of this page.