Burning Man sues BLM over clean energy project near Black Rock City

SFGate – By Silas Valentino – Feb 01, 2023

The organizers of Burning Man have joined forces with environmental groups to try and stop a geothermal power plant from being developed in rural Nevada, filing a suit last month alleging the Bureau of Land Management failed to properly assess the impacts to the land and water supply before approving the first phase of the project.

Last year, the Bureau of Land Management approved a plan from Ormat Technologies to drill 13 exploratory wells deep into the earth’s crust on the silt playas of Washoe County, Nevada, looking for super-heated pockets of liquid that can be used to create clean, renewable energy. The plant, along with the roads and facilities required to keep it running, would be less than a mile from Gerlach, Nevada, and approximately 15 miles from Black Rock City, the famously remote temporary town where Burning Man is held.

An environmental assessment published by the bureau last year declared the project would have “no significant impact,” and so they would not require a full environmental impact review. The report pointed out that any negative effects of the drilling — including night-time light pollution and construction noise — would be temporary. Ormat Technologies and the bureau have also developed a plan to monitor the effects on local groundwater, according to the report, with the intention of “modifying or temporarily suspending project operations” if water supplies are negatively affected.

Opponents of the proposal, though, point out that the assessment only discusses the effects of the exploratory drilling — not the potential impact of the two power plants Ormat hopes to eventually build in the area. A spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management told SFGATE they do not comment on pending litigation. The agency has until March 10 to respond to the lawsuit.

Dave Cooper, a retired BLM manager for the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, told SFGATE he doubts the agency’s reassurance of protecting water. He is now on the board of Friends of the Black Rock High Rock, one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

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Posted by Teri Perticone


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