Air District Certified Inadequate Environmental Document for Ormat Geothermal Project, Withheld Critical Information from Public and Stakeholders

Mammoth Lakes, CA – The Mammoth Community Water District (MCWD) today announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (Great Basin), charging the district with violating the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by certifying an inadequate and flawed final environmental impact statement/environmental impact report (FEIS/EIR) for the controversial Casa Diablo IV Geothermal Development Project (Casa Diablo IV). The project’s proponent, Ormat Technologies, Inc. (Ormat), is listed as a real party of interest in the suit against Great Basin.

The petition for writ of mandate, filed with the Superior Court of the State of California in Mono County on Friday (August 15, 2014), states that the FEIS/EIR prepared for Casa Diablo IV, “lacks credible information to support its conclusions that the project will not significantly impact groundwater resources” and “is fundamentally flawed as an informational document because it fails to disclose significant information.”

The petition alleges that there was a lack of transparency evident throughout the FEIS/FEIR process, and that the FEIS/EIR is inadequate because:

  • It lacks credible scientific evidence to support the conclusion that there will be no adverse impacts to Mammoth’s groundwater resources and that there is no hydrological connectivity  between the groundwater aquifer and the underlying geothermal system;
  • Great Basin refused to disclose significant information to the public and stakeholders, as required under CEQA; and
  • Great Basin failed to adequately respond to comments submitted by MCWD on the draft EIS/EIR.

MCWD, along with local community groups and local, regional and federal elected officials, have consistently expressed concerns with Casa Diablo IV’s potential impacts to local water supplies and environmental resources.

“Our top priority is, and always has been, the protection of our water supply. That’s why it’s imperative that the real impacts of the Casa Diablo IV project be truly analyzed in a transparent and collaborative process,” said Patrick Hayes, MCWD’s general manager. “By certifying an environmental document that failed to adequately analyze Casa Diablo IV’s potential impacts to our groundwater resources, and then refusing to disclose data used to make this inadequate analysis, Great Basin abused its discretion under CEQA and obstructed the protections that should have been afforded to the region through the environmental review.”

Director of the Air Pollution Control District, Ted Schade offered this comment on news MCWD is suing his agency.  Schade had earlier made it clear he would issue no permits for additional ORMAT geothermal wells until a monitoring plan is in place.

“Although Great Basin’s top priority is to protect air quality in the Eastern Sierra, it also takes very seriously the protection of the Town of Mammoth Lakes’ water supply. The certified EIR, along with Great Basin’s permitting process and requirements imposed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, will ensure the area’s air and water are protected.”

“It is unfortunate” said Schade, “that the Mammoth Community Water District felt the need to file a lawsuit against Great Basin instead of working with all the parties to develop a groundwater monitoring plan that protects the town’s water supply. The water district has every right to file a lawsuit, but, it would seem to be a waste of its ratepayer’s money to hire a public relations firm for $125,000 to issue press releases and take out full page ads in Inyo and Mono newspapers. This is not a public relations issue – it is a hearing before a Mono County judge.”

“Great Basin will vigorously defend itself in court before a judge. It fully intends to prevail in all actions against it. Great Basin has never lost a lawsuit and it is unlikely to lose this one.”


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