Burning Man festival sues BLM for millions in fees

The Burning Man music festival is suing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), claiming that the government agency has overcharged it in fees for several years. 

Black Rock City LLC, the company that produces the annual event, filed a lawsuit this month accusing BLM and the Interior Department of “ongoing, unlawful, and prejudicial conduct … that threatens the viability of the iconic Burning Man Event.”

It also accused BLM of imposing “inflated and unnecessary costs on [Black Rock City] without providing adequate justification.”

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Burning Man spokesman Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley told The Hill in an email on Thursday that Burning Man has been seeking relief from the costs for almost four years, but was denied by the Interior Board of Land Appeals. 

“This case is our attempt to break this cycle,” Debucquoy-Dodley said. 

The complaint, which was posted online by Courthouse News Service, said that Black Rock City paid more than $18 million between 2015 and 2018 for BLM’s costs for putting on Burning Man. 

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It added that in 2019, Black Rock City paid more than $2.9 million. 

The festival brings more than 70,000 people to northern Nevada each year, the court document said. 

A Bureau of Land Management spokesperson described Burning Man as “one of the largest annual events on America’s public lands” in a statement to The Hill on Thursday.

“To ensure public safety and environmental compliance around this huge undertaking, the BLM issues a Special Recreation Permit that includes a commercial use fee,” the spokesperson said. “As set by regulation, this fee equals three percent of the adjusted gross income derived from the authorized use, plus any applicable assigned site fee and/or exclusive use fee, as well as cost recovery including application fees.”

Updated at 4:52 p.m.

 

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