The National Indian Justice Center conducted an HIA of a proposed utility-scale solar project that focused on potential health risks and benefits for neighboring Native American communities in the Mojave Desert. Key decision-makers included the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the California Energy Commission, the Department of Defense, and private developers. The renewable energy project had the potential to alter land and resources used by Indigenous people. Cultural and natural resources and sacred sites play a major role in Indigenous people’s health because their cultural identities, a primary health factor, are tied to the land, its features, and its resources. The HIA analyzed potential health impacts associated with cultural identity through changes in access to traditional foods, substance use disorders, and mental health. Benefits tied to the renewable energy project were also considered. They include improved air quality from reduced emissions and the revitalization of the local economy, which could provide opportunities for employment and increased local revenue that could support health and social services in addition to water and sanitation infrastructure. The center conducted the HIA in parallel with state and federal environmental reviews and used the assessment’s findings and recommendations to implement measures to protect health by preserving access to cultural resources in the final agency decision. This project was conducted in collaboration with the BLM, the state energy commission, and affected tribes, tribal leaders, and tribal health advocates.
This Health Impact Assessment Report first appeared in The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health. The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health was originally developed by the Health Impact Project, formerly a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The creation of this resource was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts, or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.