(El Centro) Tuesday afternoon Ormat Technologies cleared a major hurdle as they successfully defended before the Imperial County Board of Supervisors against California Unions for Renewable Energy (CURE)their proposed expansion of their 33 acre, 49.9 megawatt plant to be built between Dietrich and Best Roads east of Brawley.
CURE filled a complaint with the Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission in December 2011 in order to stop Ormatâ€™s expansion. That was dismissed for lack of evidence, but CURE turned around and filed a petition for reconsideration which was also dismissed. Finally, they filed an appeal with the Board of Supervisors after the Planning Commission unanimously voted to approve the conditional use permit, the Environmental Impact Report and the MMRP.
San Francisco based attorney, Elizabeth Klebaner, represented CURE in the proceedings. She brought up several reasons to deny Ormat the permit for their East Brawley Geothermal Plant. One argument Â was the plant would generate over 50 megawatts of power and therefore the board had no jurisdiction. Â County Counsel Katherine Turner assured the board that the plant would generate 49.9 mw of power and that they did have jurisdiction to grant the process.
Another point Klebaner used to deny Ormatâ€™s permit was the water needed for the operation would exceed Brawleyâ€™s wastewater plant and IIDâ€™s ability to deliver. Antonio Ortega of the IID refuted that claim.
Charlene Wardlow, director of Business Development for Ormat presented economic benefits Ormat has brought to the valley.Â Ormat employs over 250 people in the county, spends over $23 million annually in Imperial Valley goods and services and pays over $4 million dollars in taxes annually. At one point during her power point presentation, the screen filled with names of local businesses that have dealings with Ormat. She then turned to the people in the board room and asked those who own companies that benefit economically from the geothermal company to stand. Eighty percent of the room stood.
Wardlow also addressed the recent earthquake activity since some fear the geothermal extraction of hot water may have caused the swarms recently experienced in the Brawley area. The depths that are drilled are only one tenth of the depth of the earthquakes and when Ormat looks for geothermal areas, earthquakes are one of the factors they desire as it indicates correct conditions she explained. Plus Wardlow mentioned the valleyâ€™s record of earthquakes precedes geothermal drilling by decades.
In the end, it was a 5-0 vote for Ormat. All the supervisors expressed their support of the geothermal industry and in particular for Ormat and the jobs and the renewable energy they develop in the valley.