Gerlach geothermal exploration project on hold after Washoe County rescinds permit

Reno Gazette Journal – By Amy Alonso – April 12, 2023

Ormat Technologies’ proposed geothermal exploration in the Gerlach area is on hold after Washoe County commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to rescind a permit needed to move forward with the project.

Commissioners Jeanne Herman, Mike Clark and Clara Andriola voted to rescind the permit. Chair Alexis Hill and Commissioner Mariluz Garcia voted against.

In January, the county’s Board of Adjustment approved an administrative permit for the project. The permit was one of several local and federal permits necessary for Ormat Technologies to be able to drill up to 13 geothermal test wells with associated facilities around Gerlach.

Burning Man Project and two Gerlach residents appealed the permit, arguing proper notice was not provided to Gerlach residents and its Citizen Advisory Board, that notices for public comment deadlines were sent in ways that limited public participation and that the project doesn’t meet the county’s High Desert Area Plan.

Speaking for Ormat, attorney Garrett Gordon told commissioners the project is consistent with county plans and that “this noticing thing is a rabbit hole we don’t need to go down.”

Tina Walters, head of the Gerlach-Empire Citizens Advisory Board, countered, “There are just too many what-ifs and dangers to approve this project.”

Walters was one of many Gerlach residents who showed up to speak against the project.

The exploratory project is potentially part of a much larger geothermal development near the small rural community about two hours northeast of Reno.

Ormat originally proposed two new geothermal plants, overhead powerlines and several miles of above-ground pipeline for the region; it withdrew that plan in 2020 and instead moved forward with the smaller proposal to explore the area.

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Posted by Teri Perticone


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