U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Backcountry Against Dumps, a local citizens’ group, against the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of the Interior. The lawsuit sought to challenge the agencies’ approval of Terra Gen’s Campo Wind project on the Campo Indian reservation.
Donna Tisdale, President of Backcountry Against Dumps voiced disappointment in the ruling, which she called “heartbreaking.” In an email, she states, “It appears that the judge decided that sovereign immunity and questionable claims made by the current tribal chairman and their attorneys (likely paid for by Terra-Gen) outweigh public/private interests, and the interests and wellbeing of opposing tribal members.”
She adds, “Strong evidence documenting the fact that the tribal vote to approve the lease agreement with Terra-Gen was invalid due to lack of a proper quorum needed as required by the Campo Band’s own constitution and bylaws; and evidence that twice as many tribal members oppose the project as those the leadership claimed voted for it, were deemed irrelevant to our case as they relate to tribal governance.”
Former tribal leader Monique LaChappa had earlier alleged corruption by tribal leadership as well as suppression of votes by a majority of tribal members who had signed a petition opposing the project and asking for a revote, as ECM reported. Some tribal members pleaded for legal help, alleging that their rights were violated.
Tribal members in support of the project have argued it would bring economic gains as well as clean, green energy. Tribal members opposed voiced fears over fires, since wind turbines on the tribe’s existing wind project have exploded and caused brush fires. Most of all, they fear the project will make their homes unlivable due to noise, infrasound, blade flicker and stray voltage – all issues with the current project, and the new turbines are planned to be far taller and much closer to homes.
Tisdale, whose ranchland abuts the project site, is the founder of Backcountry Against Dumps, a nonprofit. Defendants in the suit also included Terra-Gen LLC and the Campo Band of Mission Indians.
Hopes have dimmed among those hoping to halt the massive wind energy project, but are not yet extinguished. “Our nonprofit board will consider the limited available and affordable options,” says Tisdale, but acknowledges, “It does not look good.”
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has agreed to reconsider whether the towering turbines would pose an aviation hazard. It’s also possible that a majority of tribal members could overturn the earlier vote and terminate the Campo Wind project, as tribal members previously voted to reverse approvals of a Campo Landfill and the Shu’luuk Wind project.
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