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Mon Feb 17, 2020, 11:27 PM

'This Is the Wild West Out Here'

‘This Is the Wild West Out Here’
How Washington is bending over backward for mining companies in Nevada at the expense of environmental rules.

Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center of Biological Diversity. | M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico


02/09/2020 06:51 AM EST

DYER, Nevada—On a cold, windy day in late October, in one of the most remote and least populated regions of the state, a half-dozen workers prepared to drill another test hole in the arid volcanic rock. They were looking for deposits of lithium, a metal that has become indispensable to smartphones and electric-vehicle batteries, and which geologists estimate is so abundant here that mining companies from around the world are vying for a chance to make the next big discovery. The workers doing the drilling were contracted by Ioneer, an Australian company that has already invested millions in exploring what it believes could be one of the largest lithium producers in the world with an estimated net value of nearly $2 billion.

Like almost all of the surrounding territory, this land is owned by the federal government and overseen by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management. I had come here because I had learned that the Rhyolite Ridge project was threatening a rare wildflower called Tiehm’s buckwheat that is not known to grow anywhere else in the world. Standing with me on the ridgeline overlooking the work site was Patrick Donnelly, the state director of the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group that over the past three years has established itself as one of the most determined—and successful—foes of the Trump administration’s efforts to accelerate mining and development on public lands. The Rhyolite Ridge project boundary sits atop the plant’s tiny 21-acre habitat and from what Donnelly could see, the work was already having a damaging impact. Donnelly pointed to newly graded roads on the site, including a path that cut through two of the main populations of the flower. Three weeks before, Donnelly had filed a petition with federal and state officials to have the plant listed as an endangered species. Now, on a holiday weekend, the mine was buzzing and Donnelly was livid. He had seen nothing like this level of activity on three visits over the summer.

The Bureau of Land Management—BLM—approves the mining permits on all federal land. Since its creation in 1946, the agency has had a dual mission to balance the demands of industry and environmental protection. In this part of Nevada, that job falls to the BLM’s Battle Mountain district office, located more than 250 miles away. But according to a sweeping whistleblower complaint filed on October 4 by Dan Patterson, a five-year BLM employee, and obtained by POLITICO and Type Investigations, the Battle Mountain office has repeatedly disregarded its own environmental rules and regulations to fast-track permits on public land. The historic antipathy toward federal oversight common to this region, combined with a presidential administration that has announced its hostility to decades of environmental law, has left public lands especially vulnerable.

“This ... is more than disagreement with the decisions of his superiors,” the attorney with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, who is representing Patterson, wrote in the complaint, “but stems from a sincere belief that the laws of the United States are being disregarded for the professional expediency of his superiors and the benefit of private parties, and that a culture of lawlessness has been engendered.”


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Judi Lynn Feb 17 OP
2naSalit Feb 17 #1
mountain grammy Feb 18 #2

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Feb 17, 2020, 11:41 PM

1. K&R for visibility

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Feb 18, 2020, 11:44 AM

2. Get rich on public land, make a big mess, walk away.

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