Burning Man Homeowners in Lawsuit Against the Feds Joined by Paiute Tribe

The San Francisco Standard – by Maryann Jones Thompson – April 07, 2023

The legal battle to prevent geothermal mining near the Black Rock Desert town of Gerlach, Nevada, took another step forward Monday.

The Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, Gerlach Preservation Society and several local residents joined a lawsuit filed against the Bureau of Land Management by Burning Man Project and four other litigants in January.

“With the close proximity of the proposed geothermal facilities to the Summit Lake Paiute Indian Reservation, the Tribe has serious concerns about this project overall, and how rushed the approval process has been,” Summit Lake Paiute chairwoman Randi Lone Eagle said in a statement.

“We are greatly troubled by the potential water and natural resource impacts, and the possible negative effects on our historic lands,” Lone Eagle added. “Government consultation with our Tribe through this process was inadequate, and the cycle of exploitative practices in the name of energy generation must stop.”

For more than 30 years, the San Francisco-based nonprofit has held the annual gathering of 80,000 “Burners” on federal land 15 miles north of Gerlach. Over the decades, Burning Man has become a major property owner and employer in the tiny, Old West town two hours north of Reno that famously serves as the last stop before the entrance to the event.

“Our interests go beyond the large-scale event we produce in the Black Rock Desert,” said Burning Man Project’s Director of Government Affairs Marnee Benson in a statement. “We’re deeply invested in the Gerlach community and in creating long-term opportunities for tourism, sustainability, and economic development.”

Gerlach residents Will Roger and his partner Crimson Rose, who are part of Burning Man’s founding team, have signed onto the amended complaint, along with locals Stacey Black, Margie Reynolds, Jason Walters and Dave Cooper.

“The proposed geothermal plant would destroy the solitude, dark skies and wilderness all around Gerlach—all the reasons why we live here,” Roger said in a statement. “All our natural hot springs would dry up, adversely affecting wildlife habitat and probably destroy our homes due to subsidence.”

In Gerlach, hot springs both surround and underpin the town, causing buildings to occasionally subside even without mining. Residents of the struggling town of about 125 people say they are being asked to take all the risk for the project without receiving any benefit.

The Bureau of Land Management refused to comment on the pending litigation. Ormat, the geothermal energy company that owns the mining claims in Gerlach and will perform the drilling, says Burning Man is unnecessarily fostering anxiety around the project with locals. The company told The Standard last month that it is confident that the project will proceed.

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Posted by Teri Perticone


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