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Ormat employees, supporters criticize county commission over permit denial


Ormat employees and supporters, a week after the Washoe County Board of Commissioners denied the company’s permit to drill test wells at Gerlach, came to this week’s commission meeting to object to Ormat’s permit denial.

They said the decision, which was made in a 3 to 2 vote, was shortsighted. Ormat refused last week to respond to a request for comment from This Is Reno, but its employees had plenty to say during public comment at Tuesday’s meeting.

“What you heard last Tuesday … was not germane to the administrative permit before you,” Ormat’s Paul Thomsen said. “I don’t have time to refute all the misguided Burning Man talking points regarding a facility that does not exist, a facility that has not been designed and a facility that we don’t know will ever exist.”

He added that the BLM’s environmental assessment, which took more than two years, involved Gerlach residents and mitigated any potential negative impacts for test well drilling.

Scott Nichols, also with Ormat, said geothermal is the most environmentally friendly renewable energy source able to be developed here but faces a disproportionate amount of opposition. 

“Drilling has been done at Gerlach for over 10 years,” he said. “It’s not been regular. It’s been very intermittent, and that intermittent drilling will continue as we develop these resources in the future.”

Nichols said the permit denial was “a 180-degree turn [from where] we’re looking at going as a country.” 

They asked for a reconsideration of the decision, but Assistant District Attorney Nate Edwards said the decision to deny the permit stands. Ormat will have to sue to seek a different outcome.

Gerlach residents and the Burning Man project opposed the project and have filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management.

Other county actions

Provided by county staff and edited by This Is Reno.

Washoe County Budget Manager Lori Cooke presented the proposed Fiscal Year 2024 Budget with estimated appropriations of just over $1 billion. The budget represents the commissioners’ goals for fiscal sustainability (regionalization of emergency dispatch services), economic impacts, net zero carbon emissions by 2050, affordable housing and vulnerable populations, and innovative services (equity and improved elections system). 

“This is the year we’re choosing to invest in our employees,” County Manager Eric Brown said. “As you know we conducted the Korn Ferry compensation study, and the centerpiece of what we would like to do in the year ahead is to focus on getting our compensation administration right. In addition to that, we are following your guidance on other strategic priorities, most notably voters. There’s money in this budget to address the voter registration system that needs to be replaced.” 

The final budget adoption will be scheduled for the board’s May 16 meeting.  

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 and sits on the boards of the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Open Government Coalition.




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