Ill-conceived project threatens Gerlach & Wild Washoe


On April 11, The Washoe County Commission voted 3-2 to deny Ormat a permit for exploratory drilling.

Friends of Nevada Wilderness has signed on to a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management Winnemucca District for allowing Ormat Technologies, Inc. to proceed with drilling 13 exploratory geothermal wells adjacent to the town of Gerlach.

The Burning Man Project is the lead plaintiff in the case filed in Nevada federal court. The plaintiffs argue that BLM illegally gave Ormat the green light for exploratory drilling without analyzing the full impacts of development of a large-scale geothermal plant adjacent to the town.

“We all know that Ormat wants to build a full-scale plant, which is ill-conceived at that location to begin with,” said Shaaron Netherton, Friends’ Executive Director. “The fact that BLM conducted such a superficial analysis of Ormat’s plans for exploratory drilling is such bad precedent, we felt we had no option but to join the action.”

The suit alleges BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not properly analyzing the impacts of the final project, which Ormat has previously described as two new power plants, each producing 24 megawatts of electricity per hour, as well as an electrical substation, up to 23 geothermal production and injection wells, 4.6 miles of above-ground pipelines, access roads and a 26-mile overhead power line running from the power plants to the North Valley Substation in the San Emidio Desert.

“Gerlach is an iconic town in Nevada,” Netherton added. “The history of the area, the amazing wide-open spaces, the dark skies, the peace and quiet – they all mean so much not just to the people who live there but to many more people who come from all over to recreate there. These drilling wells alone will change the landscape, but construction of a large-scale geothermal plant would be disastrous. We support development of alternative energy, but not at the expense of an entire community and a beloved landscape.”


We are continuing to monitor and provide comments on the ill conceived ORMAT plans to drill up to 20 exploration wells and ultimately build a geothermal plant on the outer edge of Gerlach. The proposed plant would negatively impact the community by threatening dark skies, recreational access and, very importantly, our Granite Banjo Wilderness proposal. The minor amount of energy that would be produced here does not warrant the impacts to the community, recreation and Wilderness.
(Photo by Bob Wick, BLM - Granite Range near Gerlach)

Friends recently provided details about these impacts in our response (in partnership with Center for Biological Diversity) to the BLM's Environmental Assessment of the exploration (drilling) phase of the project. Click Read More below for maps and more information. 

We will keep you posted as we push for a comprehensive environmental analysis of this proposal. Geothermal energy is viable in many places in Nevada, but this is not one of them. Please stay tuned for our call to action to help us make sure Wild Nevada stays wild. 

How town of Gerlach would be impacted by ORMAT project

To view more maps, see Friends comments to the BLM


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