Science | January 15, 2023 12:57 pm

Burning Man Organizers Sue to Stop Clean Energy Project

It's a more complex issue than it seems

Burning Man
Burning Man has a unique relationship with the landscape.
Frederic Larson/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Each year, the Burning Man festival emerges from out of nowhere in the Nevada desert, featuring stunning imagery that looks like nothing else on Earth. At the festival’s conclusion, the participants return the area back to the state it was in before things kicked off — nominally a statement of purpose when it comes to minimizing the environmental impact.

All of which makes a report from The Washington Post a little bit head-spinning to read. The article details a lawsuit filed by festival organizers the Burning Man Project against the federal government. Its goal? To prevent the government from going through with a geothermal energy project in the region — one which lines up with the Biden administration’s goal of increasing clean energy sources across the country.

The reasons cited for the lawsuit are less NIMBY and more dueling environmental priorities, though. The lawsuit raises concerns over the power project’s impact on hot springs in the region. “These hot springs are unique environmental resources that are relied upon by the local community for tourism, and as a fundamental water source in an area that otherwise does not have water abundance,” the Burning Man Project’s statement argues.

The very existence of the lawsuit points to a larger concern over the efforts to get more green energy initiatives up and running. All of those projects are going to have to go somewhere — and in some cases, there may be a difficult decision at hand over whether to prioritize something like that or the existing environment. Hopefully solutions can be found that allow the two to co-exist — but there may be some hard decisions ahead.