Burning Man organizers sue federal agency over millions in US permit fees

0
96
Burning Man participant Marie Sbrocca of San Francisco explores Black Rock City on her bicycle as approximately 70,000 people from all over the world gathered for the 1st full day of the annual Burning Man arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, U.S. August 28, 2017.


Burning Man organizers sued the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to recover millions of dollars they say the government has overcharged them in fees over the past seven years at the counter-culture celebration in the Nevada desert.

Black Rock City LLC, the nonprofit that produces the annual Burning Man event, filed the lawsuit Dec. 13 in U.S. District Court in Washington.

Organizers told the Reno Gazette Journal they’re tired of waiting over the past four years for the bureau to provide justification for the nearly $3 million it charges annually for a permit to hold the 80,000-person event in the Black Rock Desert about 100 miles north of Reno.

BURNING MAN FESTIVAL CO-FOUNDER LARRY HARVEY DEAD AT 70

“This case is our attempt to break this cycle,” Burning Man spokeswoman Megan Miller said in an email to the newspaper.

Burning Man participant Marie Sbrocca of San Francisco explores Black Rock City on her bicycle as approximately 70,000 people from all over the world gathered for the 1st full day of the annual Burning Man arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, U.S. August 28, 2017.
(REUTERS/Jim Bourg)

The Burning Man organization is seeking “relief from defendants’ ongoing, unlawful and prejudicial conduct towards (Black Rock City LLC) that threatens the viability of the iconic Burning Man event,” the lawsuit said.

Bureau of Land Management officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

In recent years, Black Rock City has been required to reimburse the BLM, which provides law enforcement and oversight at the event, for its services and expenses.

CALIFORNIA LAWMAKER SLAMS ‘SLUT-SHAMING’ ATTACKERS THREATENING TO RELEASE HER PHOTOS FROM BURNING MAN

In addition, the group is required to pay a 3 percent gross receipts fee, or a portion of its revenue. In 2018, organizers reported nearly $44 million in revenue from the event.

FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2006 file photo, The Man, a stick figured symbol of the Burning Man art festival, is silhouetted against a morning sunrise in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. Burning Man organizers say the U.S. government wants to place unreasonable conditions on a proposal to expand the counter-culture festival's capacity to 100,000, including more security searches and hardened barriers around the perimeter that the agency says would reduce vulnerability to terrorism. (AP Photo/Ron Lewis, File)

FILE – In this Sept. 2, 2006 file photo, The Man, a stick figured symbol of the Burning Man art festival, is silhouetted against a morning sunrise in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Burning Man organizers say the U.S. government wants to place unreasonable conditions on a proposal to expand the counter-culture festival’s capacity to 100,000, including more security searches and hardened barriers around the perimeter that the agency says would reduce vulnerability to terrorism. (AP Photo/Ron Lewis, File)

Black Rock City earlier this year hired the Washington-based lobbying firm Holland and Knight to take on battles with federal officials, specifically those with the BLM and Department of Interior.

In the past four years, Black Rock City has filed six appeals challenging what it deemed excessive and unjustified costs, according to the lawsuit.

BURNING  MAN ORGANIZERS AWAIT US DECISION ON FESTIVAL-CHANGING MEASURES: ‘IT TAKES COURAGE TO LET US FLOURISH’

Since 2012, the BLM’s costs have been inflated, according to the lawsuit, though the BLM has failed to provide reasoning for increased costs.

In 2012, Burning Man organizers reimbursed the BLM nearly $1.4 million in expenses, a 60 percent year-over-year increase, though the event population increased by only 4 percent that year, according to the lawsuit. The following year, the same bill was $2.9 million, according to the lawsuit.

A participant wears a mask as he dances as approximately 70,000 people from all over the world gathered for the annual Burning Man arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, U.S. August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart FOR USE WITH BURNING MAN RELATED REPORTING ONLY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX3DXG5

A participant wears a mask as he dances as approximately 70,000 people from all over the world gathered for the annual Burning Man arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, U.S. August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart FOR USE WITH BURNING MAN RELATED REPORTING ONLY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTX3DXG5
(REUTERS/Jim Urquhart)

In three years, the cost recovery charges increased by 291 percent, and the Burning Man event population increased by 39 percent, Black Rock City attorneys said.

FEDERAL AGENCY FRETS ABOUT TERRORISM THREATS AT BURNING MAN

In 2019, the organization paid approximately $2.9 million for the event, excluding the commercial use fee.

The organization is trying to free itself from “this broken and unreasonably burdensome pattern and practice” executed specifically by the permitting district, the Winnemucca District of the Bureau of Land Management, according to the lawsuit.

BURNING MAN 2017: PHOTOS FROM THE FESTIVAL

Organizers tar forced to either “accept BLM’s charges and conditions, however unreasonable, or cancel the already-scheduled Burning Man event,” the lawsuit said.



Source link