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New plaintiffs sign on to lawsuit against BLM over Gerlach geothermal project


New plaintiffs have joined Burning Man and others in a lawsuit seeking to prevent a geothermal project near Gerlach.

The new co-plaintiffs are the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, the Gerlach Preservation Society and several local residents. 

“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,” said Summit Lake Paiute Chairwoman Randi Lone Eagle.

The groups said they are concerned that the Bureau of Land Management ignored public comments and did not consider the full scope of impacts before approving the project, a complaint that is common against the federal agency, including at the Thacker Pass project north of Winnemucca. 

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

Gerlach residents and Burning Man co-founders Will Roger Peterson and Nanci Peterson said they joined the lawsuit out of concern for natural resources, wildlife habitat and tourism. The proposed project would be the first geothermal plant built next to a rural community, they said.

“This is the right project, but it’s in the wrong place,” said Dave Cooper, a Gerlach resident who also recently joined the lawsuit. “If fully developed, this geothermal project has the potential to be larger than the town, dominate the landscape, and cause significant long-term adverse impacts to the quality of life and property in this unincorporated community.”

Ormat Technologies, the geothermal company proposing exploration for the project, which would include 13 geothermal wells, as well as associated development, previously pushed back against those suing to stop the project.

“Burning Man’s fear campaign ignores the numerous benefits of geothermal exploration,” the company said in a press statement in January. “Should Ormat eventually develop a power plant, not only would it generate 100% renewable energy, it would also bring to the Gerlach community new jobs and enhanced infrastructure, including new roads, power lines, telecommunication, and municipal water systems.”

The amended complaint was filed by the Burning Man Project on April 3 in federal court.

“Ormat made a conscious decision to prevent public comment on construction of the inevitable geothermal plant and power lines by narrowly defining the purpose and need for the action to only the initial confirmation phase of the Project,” the lawsuit notes. 

Ormat representatives did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR.