Despite recent bumps in the road regarding its Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Ormat’s Mammoth Pacific I Replacement Project, or M-1 (see “Mono County/Ormat get greenmailed” and “Mono County Supervisors deny EIR appeals”), the geothermal company is pressing on with a second project, known as the Casa Diablo IV Geothermal Development Project (CD IV).
Legal representation for the California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) have attempted to stop or at least slow the progress of M-1, which would replace the current 25-year-old geothermal plant just outside of Mammoth with a new, more efficient plant, by challenging the project’s EIR. Mono County is the lead agency on this project’s environmental process and last month the Board of Supervisors upheld the decision made by the County’s Planning Commission to approve the EIR and award a conditional use permit for the project.
Following that decision, the unions had 30 days to file any further appeals or lawsuits. According to County Development Director Scott Burns, the County had not heard anything from the unions as of Wednesday evening, Dec. 5. The 30 days expires next Thursday, Dec. 13.
“If they [unions] were wise, they’d sue on this one [CD-IV],” local attorney Jim Reed told The Sheet also on Wednesday evening during a public meeting for CD-IV’s DEIS/EIR, which is currently in the middle of a 60-day public comment period. “It’s a new project,” whereas M-1 is simply a replacement project.
Indeed, Ormat’s Ron Leiken said that the company does expect comments from the labor unions on CD-IV.
“Hopefully they won’t have as many comments [as they did for M-1],” Leiken said. The unions are required to comment during the 60-day period, which ends Jan. 15, 2013, just like anyone else.
The alleged scam being used by the unions is a form of “greenmail,” similar to blackmail, but using environmental issues on renewable energy projects as the threat. Some labor unions hire environmental lawyers to exploit California’s environmental protection laws and force private developers to agree to union-only Project Labor Agreements. If the developers don’t give in, their projects are stalled or stopped by appeals and litigation.
According to CD-IV’s descriptions, “The proposed 33-megawatt Casa Diablo IV Geothermal Development Project would be built on the Inyo National Forest within existing federal geothermal leases and private lands. It would include construction of a new geothermal power plant and substation, up to 16 new production/injection wells, multiple pipelines and access roads. A 650-ft long transmission line is proposed to interconnect the new power plant to the existing Southern California Edison substation at Substation Road. The proposed Casa Diablo IV plant, substation, access roads, well pads, pipelines and transmission line would occupy approximately 80 acres.”
The agencies involved in CD-IV are somewhat different than those involved in M-1. According to Burns, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service are the leads on CD-IV, and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (GBUAPCD) is responsible for the putting together the EIR to meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Collin Reinhardt, BLM’s Project Manager for CD-IV further explained. “It’s a BLM project, the Forest Service is overseeing the roads involved, and Great Basin is the CEQA lead. Some of the project is on federal land, which is why the NEPA process must be followed and an EIS done, but it is also on some private land, which is why CEQA must be followed and an EIR done. It saves time and is a benefit to the public to combine the two documents,” he said.
Written, facsimile, hand-delivered, and electronic comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. on January 15, 2013. Written comments must be submitted by any of the following methods: 1) mail or hand delivery: BLM, Bishop Field Office, 351 Pacu Lane, Suite 100, Bishop, CA 93514; Attn: Casa Diablo IV Geothermal Development Project Draft EIS/EIR, c/o Collin Reinhardt, Project Manager; 2) facsimile: 760.872.5050; 3) email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Subject: Casa Diablo IV Geothermal Development Project EIS/EIR; or 4) website: http://www.blmlgov/ca/st/en/fo/bishop.html. Names and addresses of commenters will become part of the public record.
For further information contact Reinhardt at 760.872.5024 or email him at email@example.com.
At Wednesday evening’s public meeting for comment on the CD-IV project, Mammoth local John Walter was the only member of the public to make oral comment on the project. One of Walter’s main concerns was related to use of the area for recreation. Much of the work being done on CD-IV is happening in the Shady Rest area where many residents and visitors recreate. Walter said that last winter the smell coming from the wells, as well as noise interfered with the recreation experience for those heading out to Shady Rest for a little bit of peace and quiet. His comments were noted in the record.