Nevada geothermal project leads the way as court battles rage

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RENO, Nov.– Bulldozers broke ground on geothermal developer Ormat’s Dixie Meadows geothermal project in Churchill County, Nevada this week as court battles over the fate of the project continue.

Many independent and government scientists have said the geothermal project poses a serious risk of extinction to the Dixie Valley Toad, a rare species that lives in the Dixie Meadows wetlands for which the project was named. Scientific analyzes show that the project could dry up the wetlands that the toad needs to survive.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe sued the Bureau of Land Management in federal court to stop the project and protect the toad. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is also currently considering whether the toad should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“If this project is built, the beautiful springs where the Dixie Valley Toad will be forever altered and could completely dry up, driving this unique toad to extinction,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada State Director at the Center. . “The survival of an entire species is more important than the production of a tiny amount of energy for Los Angeles.”

The BLM approved the project in late 2021. In December, the Center and the Tribe obtained a preliminary injunction; the case was appealed and earlier this month the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the injunction.

In court filings, Ormat claimed a power purchase agreement with the Southern California Public Power Authority, a consortium of municipal utilities that includes the City of Los Angeles, would give them a 25% premium on current rates. market if they start producing electricity by January 1. Ormat project delays resulting in renegotiation of the deal would result in a potential loss of $30 million in revenue.

“Ormat is rushing to bulldoze the habitat before the judges have a chance to decide whether it’s legal or not,” Donnelly said. “Pressing Southern California taxpayers to make a profit does not justify the extinction of a species.”

The Center filed a petition to protect the toad under the Endangered Species Act in 2017. The Service determined in 2018 that the toad might warrant protection, but failed to make the required finding 12 months to determine whether the protection was in fact warranted. In 2020, the Center filed a separate lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to act on the Center’s Endangered Species Act petition for the Dixie Valley toad within the legal deadlines.

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