October 6, 2022 - Friends of Nevada Wilderness has submitted formal comments asking the Bureau of Land Management to deny plans by Ormat to drill for and subsequently build an industrial scale geothermal project abutting the town of Gerlach and valuable public lands. The comments were submitted in partnership with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).
“There would be so many negative impacts to natural resource and property values in the area that it’s almost inconceivable Ormat would propose this project,” said Shaaron Netherton, Friends Executive Director. “The area around Gerlach is a special place for many reasons. It’s a recreational mecca, home to important cultural and historical recourses, gateway to incredible dark sky country, and so much more. This proposed project would have devastating impacts on all of that in ways that would dismay all lovers of public lands. Private property owners in Gerlach should also beware. Some of these wells would be literally right next door to them and could impact their own water sources.”
Ormat has asked the BLM for a permit to drill up to 20 exploration wells with the intent of building a geothermal plant that would impact the entire town of Gerlach and much of the surrounding public land. The BLM issued a draft environmental assessment (EA) of the proposal on August 19 and accepted public comment for 30 days.
Friends and CBD say in their comments that the EA doesn’t adequately analyze all of the potential negative impacts. They are asking BLM to outright deny the application, but if it doesn’t, to at least require Ormat to prepare a more detailed Environmental Impact Statement with extensive mitigation.
“The law requires that the potential environmental impacts of a project of this magnitude in such a sensitive area be analyzed as thoroughly as possible,” Netherton added. “The EA does not meet that standard. Ormat and the BLM must do better. They at least owe that to the public.”
The proposed geothermal plant would be adjacent to a National Conservation Area and two Wilderness Study Areas. It would also directly impact the proposed Granite Banjo Wilderness Area under consideration for inclusion in a future Washoe County public lands bill, as well as the Granite Foothills Recreation Management Zone and the Nobles Route of the California National Historic Trail.
Friends supports the development of alternative energy resources in areas where negative impacts can be adequately mitigated. There are other areas of Nevada, including public lands that are already heavily impacted and private land, where alternative energy facilities can be accommodated.
The Granite Range outside Gerlach - photo by Bob Wick
Map of impacts on town of Gerlach with proposed drilling wells abutting private land