Court decision voids geothermal leases on sacred tribal land in California

Arnica Sink - Medicine Lake, Northern California (source: flickr/ ex_magician, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 23 Sep 2019

A federal court has voided several federal geothermal leases held by Calpine Energy in the highlands at Medicine Lake on the Northern tip of California.

As reported by Courthouse News Service from the U.S., the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, a federal court, upheld voiding a 40-year lease extension for geothermal energy production on 26 parcels of land in California that are deemed sacred by Native Americas. The rejection of the opposition by BLM to the suit.

The land lies in rugged, volcanic landscape of the Medicine Lake Highlands in Siskiyou County. The land has served as a revered site for ancient customs and rituals by Native American groups, including the Pit River Tribe, for the last 10,000 years.

“Putting a power plant up there is like putting a diesel generator next to the altar in your church,” Pit River Tribe attorney Deborah Ann Sivis, of the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, explained in the article.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management first leased the land for geothermal energy exploration in 1982 to Calpine Energy Corp. The leases are located in Northern California near California, where three national forests meet – Modoc, Klamath and Shasta-Trinity.

The court case started with the Pit River Tribe and other groups suing BLM in 2004 and in 2016 a federal judge granted a summary judgement in favour of the plaintiffs.

The decision now, so the article, means that BLM will not be able to renew the leases on these plots of land unless a required environmental review is undertaken and the company consults with the tribal governments.

A Bureau of Land Management spokesperson said the agency is “reviewing the decision” and declined further comment. In another federal suite, the Pit River Tribe wants to void a separate lease in the Highlands of Medicine Lake.

Source: Courthouse News