Geothermal plant expansion appealed, goes to county supervisors in November

A group of (apparently) non-local labor union organizations appealed an Oct. 11 decision by the Mono County planning commission to allow an expansion of Ormat Pacific’s Casa Diablo geothermal plant’s energy-generating capacity.

The appeal sends the project to the county supervisors for a final decision in November.

The project has been on the county’s plate for years. It has already passed through the planning commission and through the environmental review process, and was expected to have been implemented by now, according to county officials.

However, earlier this year, the project’s Environmental Impact Report was challenged by a renewable energy worker’s union group, called Californians for Reliable Energy, or CURE, and another union group as well.

The membership of the group is unclear as it refuses to reveal its membership list, according to Mono County Senior Planner Scott Burns, but the group does not appear to have significant, if any, local members.

According to a Feb. 5 article in the Los Angeles Times, CURE’s tactic of challenging and/or appealing such renewable energy projects is common in the region.

“Since 2000, CURE has participated in environmental hearings for all 12 renewable energy projects proposed for the Southern California desert, filing more than 1,300 requests for data about water, air pollution, and endangered animal species, according to the California Energy Commission,” the article reads.

“To date, the building trades council has signed contracts to build one geothermal project and seven solar projects, and CURE has dropped objections to those plants. CURE has suits pending against two developers that did not sign labor agreements, and it is no longer pursuing claims on two other projects.”

Burns said Thursday that CURE filed its appeal on Oct. 22. He said the project would go before the Mono County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 13 at one of the supervisors regular meetings for a final decision.

He said the same group also tried the same tactic with a proposed geothermal plant in Imperial County this week and were blocked by the county supervisors.

Note: The print version of this story stated the appeal would be heard by the Mono County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 15. That is incorrect. The meeting is on Nov. 13. The Mammoth Times regrets the error.