Mojave Desert Utility-Scale Solar Project HIA

Location
California
Organization(s)
The National Indian Justice Center

The National Indian Justice Center will conduct a HIA to inform the permitting of a proposed utility-scale solar project, focused on the health risks and benefits for neighboring Native American communities in the Mojave Desert. Key decision-makers are the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM; the California Energy Commission; the Department of Defense; and private developers. The renewable energy project has the potential to alter the land and resources in use by Native people. Cultural and natural resources and sacred sites play a major role in the health of Native people because their cultural identities, a primary health factor, are inextricably tied to the land, its features, and its resources. The HIA will analyze potential health impacts associated with cultural identity through changes in access to traditional foods, substance abuse, and mental health. Benefits tied to the renewable energy project will also be considered. They include improved air quality from reduced emissions and revitalization of the local economy, which could provide opportunities for employment and health benefits and also increase local revenue available to support health and social services and infrastructure such as water and sanitation.

The center will conduct the HIA in parallel with California and National Environmental Review, and will use the assessment’s findings and recommendations to improve both the consideration of health and the implementation of mitigation measures to protect health in the final agency decision. This project will be conducted in collaboration with the BLM, the state energy commission, and affected tribes, tribal leaders, and tribal health advocates.