Out West student blog

Sustaining Tribal Resources

The Bishop Skyline at sunset. (photo credit: Matt Miccioli)

By Matt Miccioli BS '19, MS '20
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
Major: Civil and Environmental Engineering, Atmosphere and Energy
Intern for the Office of Commissioner Douglas, Califonria Energy Commission

Although most of my time spent at the Energy Commission went to investigating the potential for offshore wind energy on the California coast, participating in the Sustaining Tribal Resources conference in Bishop stood out as one of the most meaningful assignments of my internship. The Office of Commissioner Douglas is responsible for maintaining all tribal relationships at the Commission. The staff committed to outreach have the task of coordinating energy development to meet SB 100 goals while working with California Natives to preserve the integrity of their cultural resources.

Hosted by the Bishop Paiute tribe, the conference brought together state energy agencies with representatives from NGOs and tribes across California. The blistering heat of the July desert was no match for the energy of the panelists. Hearing from tribes about the impact of poorly managed solar developments highlighted the importance of the Commission’s evolving role in permitting and mediation. Opportunistic utilities and energy companies had sidestepped California regulations meant to preserve ancestral resources on Ft. Mojave and Chemehuevi tribal lands.

Recording the dialogue of the tribal representatives during the breakout sessions was my personal highlight of the conference. The participants were given free reign to provide candid feedback to questions posed by the agencies. All the interaction with constituents was an exciting and meaningful change of pace from my usual day-to-day of solitary research where the human impact of government work is less readily apparent. After the first day of meetings, the elders of the Bishop Paiute tribe prepared a meal for the guests and hosted a night of traditional singing and dancing.

Always eager to save the Energy Commission money, I camped in the Buttermilks, a field of glacially deposited golden monzonite boulders in the foothills of the Eastern Sierra instead of staying in a hotel with the rest of the agency employees. Mt. Tom, the broad peak dominating the Bishop skyline, shaded evening laps on the sharp holds of my favorite climbs as I got to contemplate the delicate balance of life in the Eastern Sierra after the conference had finished each day.

 

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