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The next act of this drama may be played out Flamingo Library Main Stage Auditorium, Las Vegas, on August 13. On one side there are tribal leaders and an independent film maker who is trying to bring their plight to the public's attention. On the other, if they come, key representatives of the solar industry and Obama administration.
Alfredo Figueroa, founder of La Cuna de Aztlán
Sacred Sites Protection Circle
It is only weeks since Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell declared that Ivanpah Solar Generating station "is paving the way for green energy thank you for being pioneers."
BrightSource Ivanpah, who many consider to be the flagship of the Obama administration's solar fleet, has many ties to the administration. Robert F Kennedy Jr, whose family helped put Obama in the White House, is probably the best known member of Vantage Point Capital Investors, one of the principal investors in BrightSource. The political connections do not end there. President Clinton’s CIA Director James Woolsey is one of VantagePoint's former partners, a former British Foreign Secretary, David Milibrand, serves as an advisor and, prior to his resignation due to health reasons, President Obama's Secretary of Commerce was a former Chairman of BrightSource's Board. No wonder some suspect that political connections may have been behind the $1.6 billion loan guarantee that the Department of Energy extended BrightSource.
Lundahl tells a different side of Ivanpah's story, the attempt Native American leaders made to stop this project from going forward.
Reverend Van Fleet asked viewers to
"Call your Senators; call your Governors. We want solar power, but we do not want it on pristine desert floor. Anybody who looks at the desert says, it's just a desert. It is not. There is a lot of animals out here that need to be protected and nobody is their voice."
It seems unlikely that Nevada residents can expect much help from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, host of the National Clean Energy Summit.
According to a blog called Political Party Time, Reid celebrated Ivanpah's loan by holding a fundraiser at BrightSource's headquarters in California. He reputedly received more campaign donations from renewable-energy sources than any other lawmaker that year and was named Solar Champion of the Year, 2010.
Duke Energy, which hopes to build the Searchlight Wind Project in Reid's hometown, both contributed to his campaign and contributed $10 million to the 2012 Democratic convention.
Reid's son, Rory, is a partner in Lionel Sawyer & Collins, which represents Duke Energy and several other renewable-energy companies championed by Harry Reid.
Reid also fought for an extension to the Federal Wind Production Tax Credit.
It is interest to note that the Searchlight Wind Project will not be close to Reid's home, but on the other side of town.
Some of the turbines will be 1.2 miles from Judy Bundorf's home.
"There are a few people who support the project, and are periodically trotted out for the press, but it really does not offer anything for the town because the energy generated, if the project is built, will be transmitted to Los Angeles or Las Vegas."
Bundorf, fellow Searchlight property owner Ellen Ross, Mojave elder Rev Ron Van Fleet, the Basin and Range Watch and Friends of Searchlight Desert and Mountains are suing the BLM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for having conducted an inadequate review of the project's impact on desert wildlife. They claim the project will "pose significant adverse harm to a wide array of sensitive and protected species including desert tortoise, golden eagles, bald eagles, and residential and migratory birds and bats through direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts"
The Searchlight Wind Project will also mark the view of Spirit Mountain, which has been listed on the National Registry of Historic Places since 1999 and is a sacred site for seven Native bands that reside along the Colorado River.
Some of their leaders told Bundorf that the BLM has not consulted with them in the manner specified by Section 106, which sounds like another lawsuit in the making.
Judy Bundorf has been researching renewable-energy for the past five years and met Robert Lundahl while he was filming at Ivanpah.
She also found the location where "Who Are My People?" will be shown and invited Lundahl to Las Vegas.
After the movie, Robert Lundahl and some of the Native Leaders will hold a conversation with the audience. It could be an interesting evening, especially if Sally Jewell, Senator Reid or any of the politicians or renewable leaders take part in the discussion.
Roy L. Hales is the editor of San Diego Loves Green.
posted July 30, 2013 8:40 am est