Judge dismisses Quechan lawsuit against refinery site
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Quechan Indian Tribe challenging the transfer of land for a proposed oil refinery in eastern Yuma County.
But the ruling won't change the decision by Arizona Clean Fuels to move the location of its planned refinery, given the uncertainty of whether the tribe would file an appeal and how much longer that might tie up the project in court, CEO Glenn McGinnis said Wednesday.
Mike Jackson Sr., president of the Quechan Tribe, did not return calls by The Sun Wednesday for comment on the judge's ruling.
Arizona Clean Fuels purchased the original site last summer from Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District after the U.S. Department of Reclamation transferred the land to the irrigation district, as authorized by Congress. The Quechan Tribe in its lawsuit challenged the transfer, alleging that the agencies failed to properly address the environmental impact of a refinery.
U.S. District Judge James A. Teilborg stated in his ruling that the tribe's suit lacked merit. He concluded that the defendants properly conducted an environmental assessment of the land before Arizona Clean Fuels purchased the land.
Further, he stated in the court document, "The court also agrees that the plaintiff's claims that BOR violated the Wellton-Mohawk Transfer Act and the Administrative Procedures Act are frivolous."
Therefore, Teilborg granted the defendants' motions for a summary judgment in their favor.
However, the ruling will not impact Arizona Clean Fuels' decision to relocate the planned refinery to an alternate site, said McGinnis. That decision was announced earlier this month.
"We will stay with the new site," he said. "We've made the decision to move."
While the judge's decision was no surprise, McGinnis said, there is the "risk of appeal" by the Quechan Tribe, which has 60 days to file an appeal.
"It was the uncertainty of how long it would take," he said of the lawsuit.
He said the alternate site is near the original site and is well situated for the refinery. It is between Avenues 48E and 49E, bordered by County 6th Street to the north and the railroad tracks on the south.
"It is beyond the property that has anything to do with the lawsuit," McGinnis said.
He said much of the 1,400 acres is private land that Arizona Clean Fuels has options to purchase. A small portion is leased state land, for which Arizona Clean Fuels has already applied.
"There's always a use for land near an oil refinery," said McGinnis of the original 1,400 acres for which Arizona Clean Fuels holds the title.
Joyce Lobeck can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6853.