Court upholds approval of alternative energy project by Great Basin Air District against lawsuit by Mammoth Community Water District
SAN FRANCISCO (July 1, 2015) – The Mono County Superior Court released its decision for the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (Great Basin) to uphold its conditional approval for a new geothermal project by Ormat located in the Casa Diablo area of the Inyo National Forest. After a trial in April 2015, Superior Court Judge Stan Eller issued his decision rejecting the arguments of the Mammoth Community Water District (MCWD) and two union groups who alleged in three different lawsuits that the project approvals did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.
The Great Basin’s approvals were part of a joint federal and state agency review of the project with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. The project will support California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires the increased use of renewable energy resources. The project will also support California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 which directs that the use of renewable energy be increased to 33 percent by 2020. The project is anticipated to produce enough clean energy for approximately 33,000 people and six new permanent jobs for the community.
The geothermal reservoirs and the drinking water aquifers are located approximately two miles away and separated by a layer of impermeable rock. The Court held that the extensive record of evidence, including expert opinions and scientific studies, established “substantial evidence that there is no connectivity between the deep geothermal reservoir and MCWD’s groundwater aquifer.”
As part of the Great Basin’s approvals, a groundwater monitoring plan must be approved by the federal and state agencies and implemented by Ormat before drilling any new geothermal wells. Ormat has obtained assistance from the California Energy Commission for two new monitoring wells and agreed to the location of those wells with the Water District to ensure that geothermal operations do not affect Mammoth Lakes’ domestic water supply.
“We’re very pleased that the court upheld the agency approvals for the alternative energy project,” said Morrison & Foerster partner Peter Hsiao, head of the firm's Environment and Energy Group in Los Angeles. “Great Basin has always been committed to protecting the drinking water and the environment.”
Mr. Hsiao led the Morrison & Foerster trial team representing Great Basin. The team included San Francisco of counsel Robin Stafford, and Los Angeles associates Kelsey Stricker and William Herbert.