Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe intervenes in environmental violation case against California biomass plant

The US Federal District Court in San Francisco has issued an order allowing the Native American Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe to intervene in the Clean Air Act enforcement case currently pending against the Blue Lake Power biomass facility.

The Tribe has been opposed to any restart of the facility located in in Blue Lake, California, because of significant air pollution impacts on the Tribe’s members and the surrounding area.

Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe energy director, Jana Ganion, explained her community is “directly and immediately” affected by poor air quality caused by the plant.

“This area has not attained healthful air quality standards in general and we now know exposure to this type of air pollution causes acute and chronic health problems and premature deaths,” Ganion said in a statement.

She’s also concerned that the “toxic emissions” from the plant will not only affect humans, but also the water quality, fisheries, endangered species, and other environmental aspects of the Mad River, which runs by Blue Lake.

Legal precedent

The legal action arises out of Blue Lake Power’s violations of the federal Clean Air Act, according to the complaints filed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the North Coast Air Quality Unified Management District, and the Tribe.

The complaints detail how the Blue Lake Power facility has violated the Clean Air Act by failing to obtain proper permits and to apply the appropriate air pollution control technology to control CO, NOx, and particulate matter emissions.

The Court’s intervention ruling allows the Tribe to participate in the enforcement action against Blue Lake Power and to pursue its state law claims in state court.

The Court recognised the Tribe’s Clean Air Act claims are timely and determined preconstruction permitting violations cited in the complaints are continuing violations under the Clean Air Act, based on the structure of the applicable regulations.

The ruling was obtained as a direct result of the Tribe’s intervention and is now a legal precedent for similar cases in California that may help state and federal enforcement efforts.

‘One bad actor’

The court decision was praised by Blue Lake Rancheria vice chair Arla Ramsey, claims the emissions from the facility have had adverse impacts on the Tribe’s lands and our members, 75% percent of which are children and elders.

“We generally support biomass power, but this is a specific case of chronic violations by one bad actor and the very serious health and environmental impacts they have created,” Ramsey continued.

The Tribe has also petitioned the EPA to revoke Blue Lake Power’s operating permit based on the facts of this case and other violations.

Environmental group Ecological Rights Foundation has also recently brought suit against Blue Lake Power for Clean Water Act violations.

The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe has been recognised by the White House as a 2015-2016 Climate Action Champion and has long advocated for clean power generation.

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