Energy Companies Take Aim at Sacred Sites in California Desert

Chevron and Solar Millennium LLC have begun bulldozing what will ultimately be an 11 square-mile field of mirrors and steel, replacing old growth desert and ironwood washes in the Sonoran desert.  The construction is also cutting into an area considered sacred by Native Americans, with giant geoglyphs depicting deities carved into desert gravel.  The largest geoglyph near the project is of the god Kokopelli, which plays a central role in some Native American tribes' cosmological view.

The Blythe Solar power project is one of several that was "fast-tracked" by the Department of Interior for approval last year, leading to what many consider to be a hasty environmental and historical review process.  A judge halted one of those projects--the Imperial Valley solar power project--because the Department of Interior did not adequately consult with the Quechan tribe before approving the project.  Another legal challenge challenged six of the projects, including Blythe, and is pending judicial review.

Some environmental groups decided to tacitly support the destructive Blythe Solar power project, probably in order to appear as cooperative with the Obama administration's plans to give hundreds of square miles of public lands and billions of taxpayer dollars in financing to solar energy firms.  The Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society all submitted letters to the Department of the Interior withdrawing opposition to the project, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.  It's not clear if the environmental groups consulted with Native Americans before giving a nod to Interior's plans to approve the Blythe Solar power project.

Copies of the letters withdrawing opposition to the Blythe solar project--attached below--do not express concern for the condition of sacred sites.


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