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Media Contact:

Jose Carmona, (415) 265-7851, jose@tzunu.com
Katia Lopez , (760) 668-4565, katia@tzunu.com
Brendan McLaughlin, (206) 892-8832, bmclaughlin@earthworksaction.org 

BRAWLEY, CA:  Yesterday, March 13, Comité Civico del Valle and Earthworks issued a joint petition challenging the approval of the Controlled Thermal Resources Hell’s Kitchen Lithium Project adjacent to the Salton Sea in California’s Imperial Valley. The petition argues that Imperial County (County) has violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by approving the project despite a deeply flawed Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that fails to adequately analyze and mitigate impacts related to air quality, hazardous waste, and water supply (to name a few). The petition also argues that the County failed to comply with legal requirements for tribal consultation, such as meaningful consultation with affected tribes or requiring tribal-specific mitigation measures.

“Controlled Thermal Resources boasts about the sustainability attributes of direct lithium extraction, yet public health, hazardous waste, and water concerns remain unresolved,” said Executive Director of Comite Civico del Valle, Luis Olmedo. “We have diligently raised our concerns about this project throughout the planning process, advocating for reasonable mitigation measures that will ensure Lithium Valley is developed responsibly while protecting the environment and the public health of our communities. Yet, Controlled Thermal Resources and the County have charged ahead, leaving us no choice but to pursue legal recourse. We are hopeful that the parties will come back to the table to negotiate in good faith to implement meaningful mitigation measures, including meaningful changes to the project’s construction and operation, that should have been taken during the CEQA review process.” 

Last year, CCV and Earthworks published a report on the potential environmental justice impacts of Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE). The report found that although DLE technologies may prove to have lower impact than conventional mining using open pits or evaporation ponds, many uncertainties remain, since the technology has never before been used at commercial scale. The report recommends a precautionary approach, especially as it relates to freshwater consumption from the overburdened Colorado River, and exacerbating air quality impacts from the drying Salton Sea.

“Lithium is important for the transition away from fossil fuels, but extracting it has serious negative environmental and social impacts that need to be addressed,” said Jared Naimark, California Mining Organizer with Earthworks. “California has an opportunity to lead the way on a just transition with more responsible practices. This starts with ensuring lithium projects such as Hell’s Kitchen comply with our fundamental environmental laws to disclose, analyze, and mitigate impacts.” 

The Hell’s Kitchen Project was approved by Imperial County on January 23, 2024, and CTR held a groundbreaking ceremony on January 26. The legal challenge will trigger a review to determine whether the EIR complies with CEQA or requires revision.  All options remain on the table to ensure that community concerns are adequately analyzed and mitigated, particularly potential impacts related to air quality, hazardous waste, and water supply. The petition also argues that the County failed to comply with legal requirements for tribal consultation.

About CCV:
Comite Civico del Valle is a 501 (c)(3) organization with an extensive background and accomplishments that date back to our grassroots origins in 1987. Our organization was founded in Imperial County, California with the endeavor of improving the lives of disadvantaged communities; informing, educating, and engaging the community´s civic participation. Comite Civico del Valle (CCV) was founded on the principle that “Informed People Build Healthy Communities” and continues to incorporate this in all partnerships, research, and civic engagement.

About Earthworks:
Since 1988, Earthworks has helped communities secure protections of their health, land, water, and air from extractive industries. Earthworks is the only national organization in the U.S. to focus exclusively on preventing the destructive impacts of the extraction of oil, gas, and minerals.