Geothermal plant wins appeal but pauses Nevada construction

In this 2017 photo provided by the Center for Biological Diversity is a Dixie Valley toad, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has temporarily listed as an endangered species on an emergency basis near the site of a power plant site in Nevada.
In this 2017 photo provided by the Center for Biological Diversity is a Dixie Valley toad, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has temporarily listed as an endangered species on an emergency basis near the site of a power plant site in Nevada.

RENO, Nev.— (AP) — The developer of a geothermal power plant facing legal challenges in Nevada agreed Monday to suspend construction just hours after a U.S. appeals court had refused to halt the project that opponents say would harm an endangered toad and destroy sacred hot springs.

In a ruling Monday morning, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a bid by environmentalists and a Nevada tribe to reinstate an injunction that temporarily blocked work earlier this year on Ormat Nevada’s plant 100 miles (161 kilometers) east of Reno.

But hours later, lawyers for Ormat, the government, environmentalists and the tribe filed a joint stipulation in federal court in Reno detailing a voluntary agreement to suspend construction for at least 30 days — and perhaps until the end of the year.

In this image from a drone provided by the Center for Biological Diversity is the wetlands at Dixie Meadows, home to the Dixie Valley toad near the Ormat construction site for the Dixie Meadows Geothermal Project, in Churchill County, Nev., June 28, 2022. On Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a bid by environmentalists and a Nevada tribe to halt construction of a geothermal power plant that opponents say would harm the endangered toad and destroy sacred hot springs.

The unusual turn of events comes after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the rare step of declaring the Dixie Valley toad endangered on a temporary emergency basis in April — something the agency has done only one other time in 20 years.

The project is one of several underway in the West that the Biden administration backs as a way to combat climate change by expediting the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

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