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Native American Tribes Succeed In Halting “Dixie Meadows” Geo-Thermal Energy Project In Central Nevada

https://www.ormat.com

Reno, Nevada – A geo-thermal energy project set to begin construction hit a wall on Tuesday when Native American Tribes were successful in obtaining a injunction. The Federal judge in Nevada issued the injunction against commencement of construction on a the project located in the state’s natural geo-thermal “Dixie Meadows” region. The region is also home to the Central Nevada Seismic Zone Geothermal Region.

The decision by senior U.S. District Judge Robert Clive Jones was a major victory for environmental groups and indigenous people who opposed the project. It posed a harm to both the ecology and a tribe’s way of life, according to the ruling.

The Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Interior and the Bureau of Land Management on December 15, accusing them of sanctioning the project.

A geothermal power plant and 48 miles of transmission lines are proposed for construction on about 2,000 acres of public land in Dixie Valley, in north-central Nevada according to the lawsuit filed by the group.

The Tribe argued in the complaint that the project’s construction would substantially impair, if not completely eliminate, the ability of its members to practice their religion at the Hot Springs, and that altering the sacred site would be a violation of their religious, cultural, and spiritual values.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s arguments against the project were based on the threat the project would represent to the very interesting Dixie Valley toad, an amphibian that is highly rare.

Center For Biological Diversity

Specifically, the Center stated in their complaint that the toad, being a cold-blooded species, is “particularly sensitive to variations in water temperature.”

The Center cited previous geothermal projects that have been linked to drying up or modifying surface waters — including another Ormat project in neighboring Battle Mountain, Nevada — as evidence that the threats to the species are significant.

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According to the report, changes in water temperature and level could eliminate the refuge that toads rely on for cover during the winter, decrease the species’ breeding season, and have an impact on the development of their eggs and tadpoles, among other things.

During a press conference, Ormat stated that the geothermal project will be critical in helping Nevada achieve its goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, which was established by voters in the state’s constitution.

Ormat further maintained that the project would have major economic benefits for the region, as it would create 300 jobs and provide $4 million in revenue for the state each year, among other things.

These officials defended the thoroughness of the BLM’s six-year evaluation of the project and the procedures they claimed were already in place to satisfy the concerns of the Center and the Tribe, according to the Associated Press.

The Center and the Tribe both argued that the benefits of a renewable energy project outweighed the hazards to the wetland ecology and the indigenous people’s practices, which have existed for thousands of years and are still practiced today.

The Center for Biological Diversity stated they fully support renewable energy when it is used in the appropriate context, but a project like this that threatens sacred sites and endangered species is absolutely not in the correct context.

The mood was also set around the fact that The United States has frequently stated that it will recognize and maintain indigenous holy sites, but the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently approved a large construction project that will be built almost entirely on top of what is precious hot springs.

The Center and the Tribe’s arguments were persuasive enough for Jones, a George W. Bush nominee, to grant a preliminary injunction that will last for 90 days, giving the Ninth Circuit time to consider any appeals.

Because of contract conditions, the project must be completed within a strict construction timeframe, and Ormat noted that the 90-day pause has a detrimental impact on the financial feasibility of the project and the company left open the possibility of an appeal.

Crews and construction equipment were literally stopped in their tracks that were scheduled to begin this week. We will keep you and the toads updated 🙂

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