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EPA says no to final Superfund rules

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will not issue final regulations for financial responsibility requirements for certain hardrock mining facilities, the agency announced Dec. 1.

“After careful analysis of public comments, the statutory authority, and the record for this rulemaking, EPA is confident that modern industry practices, along with existing state and federal requirements address risks from operating hardrock mining facilities,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Additional financial assurance requirements are unnecessary and would impose an undue burden on this important sector of the American economy and rural America, where most of these mining jobs are based.”

EPA published proposed regulations under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, or Superfund) on Jan. 11, and the public comment period closed on July 11.

EPA has decided not to issue final regulations because the risks associated with these facilities’ operations are addressed by existing federal and state programs and industry practices.

“The success of Nevada’s robust mine bonding program protects public safety and our environment and ensures our critical mining industry can operate with certainty,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval in a statement. “I applaud the EPA for their thoughtful approach and thorough review of the proposed rule, for seeking comments from a diverse set of stakeholders and ultimately, for making the right decision. Today’s action by the Administrator recognizes the reality that the states have been capably regulating mine bonding without interference from Washington and should be allowed to continue to do so.”

“When litigation is used as a tool to attempt to force the government into unnecessary action against an industry, the result is bad policy,” said Hal Quinn, NMA president and CEO. “Today’s action shows that reason can prevail. Modern, advanced mining practices – coupled with existing state and federal environmental and financial assurance requirements – comprehensively cover the same risks contemplated under the CERCLA program.”

Great Basin Resource Watch was one of the plaintiffs in the years-old litigation via Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm. GBRW Executive Director John Hadder said the group hasn’t yet discussed officially what will happen next but that the fight isn’t over.

“I guess the bottom line is that we’ll be back in court,” he said. “We feel that it is needed, and we’ll probably be back in court.”

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Q&A with NNRDA outgoing and incoming directors

ELKO — Pam Borda, executive director of the Northeastern Nevada Regional Development Authority, plans to retire Dec. 29 after eight years of service. During her tenure, she brought unprecedented planning and oversaw the collaboration of 11 area governments in economic development efforts. Borda leaned on her previous experience in all levels of government, business analysis and consulting to advance the organization. For her retirement, she plans to spend time with her mother, cultivate a greenhouse garden and volunteer in the economic development sector.

Borda now abdicates to Sheldon Mudd, who brings experience as the mining industry specialist for the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, working alongside Borda in the Elko office at Great Basin College. Mudd, an Idaho native, previously served in the Air Force, specializing in communications, computers, networking then encryption. He studied with Wayland Baptist University, earning a bachelor’s degree in business and master’s degree in history, then he worked in the mining industry before joining GOED.

In this Q&A, the outgoing NNRDA executive director and her personally chosen successor discuss the organization’s recent accomplishments, their hopes for the future, and philosophy of economic development for rural northeastern Nevada.

EDFP: What is the purpose of this organization?

Borda: The purpose is to keep our economy healthy and growing because, in order for it to be healthy, it’s got to grow. That’s usually the easiest way to do it because unlike urban economic developers who just recruit new companies, we get involved in many different things in order to be able to grow the number of jobs and companies.

EDFP: Is this a government entity?

Borda: We are created by an interlocal agreement between all the local governments that are members. Now we have 11 local governments that are members and they all have to adopt the interlocal agreement, and it basically creates us and appoints Elko County as the oversight financially.

EDFP: Looking back over your years, what is your proudest accomplishment?

Borda: I would say getting all the counties and cities to join NNRDA to become the mining region that the state wanted us to be. Six years ago, when the state asked us to become the mining RDA and to take on four more counties, I specifically asked them not to force that to happen because they would set us up to fail. I asked instead that they be allowed to join when and if they wanted to. It’s taken a number of years, but one by one, each of them has come on their own and requested to join our organization. I’m rather proud of that.

EDFP: How were you successful in doing that?

Borda: Those counties started seeing what we were accomplishing and doing, and when it came to their elected officials, in every case, they shared with me that they knew they weren’t getting anything done on their own and that they didn’t know enough about economic development to manage their own people.

EDFP: How has the philosophy of economic development changed in your tenure?

Borda: Just as I expect Sheldon to, I took this organization to the next level because I had a lot of skills and experience to bring to the table. We’ve done a lot of really important work that I don’t think the average rural economic development authority would attempt to do. …

One of the things we brought to the table was strategic planning, which is another area where I am really proud. ECEDA [Elko County Economic Development Authority], which is what it was when I got here … was just Elko County and the four cities within. There was no strategic plan. There had never been one done. As I got to know all the cities in the county, there were different efforts made, but everything went on the shelf. Nothing ever got implemented. I think that we were the first to actually do a plan and implement it, and now we are attempting to do that for the whole region.

Mudd: One thing Pam had told me, because you’d mentioned the philosophy of economic development, is that … at one time economic development here was just taking whatever lead you got and try to make it fit … . Whereas now, with the planning she’s talking about, it allows us to determine what is best suited for this area — target those leads, those types of companies — and then recruit them. We already know it would be a good fit, good addition, as opposed to what it was before. How was that?

Borda: That was perfect. In the old days, they would wait for somebody to hand them a lead. They didn’t really go out and generate them. As Sheldon said, they’d just try and make it work. Rarely ever does it work that way. My philosophy is that for strategic planning and identifying what resources and assets a community has, we can be much more successful to build industry that could utilize those resources and assets.

EDFP: What is an example of an incentive and how is it used?

Borda: Quite honestly, the incentives that were established by the state for rural Nevada have only been successfully utilized one time in six years. So they’re not a very good tool right now for rural Nevada — not to say that we are not going to make an effort to change that so they are a better tool. We’ve had to get creative at the local level to try and make up for that. We work with our local governments.

My mission in life as a volunteer is to get those incentives changed in the next session of the Legislature. That will be my last gift to the economic development world, is to try to get all the economic development authorities to provide input and figure out what kind of incentives would work for all of us and get legislation [drafted].

EDFP: In your view, what is something that would work?

Borda: We need to have it not require a 51 percent export. Those incentives were created almost specifically for manufacturing with the idea that you’re bringing a company here that is going to export all their goods. In the rurals, we can’t compete with the big cities for manufacturing companies, and so the ones we are getting are associated with the mining industry or some other industry we have here.

It’s back to that strategic planning. You’ve got to go with what it is that you can get, not try to compete with Las Vegas and get major manufacturers.

EDFP: Do you work with businesses that are already established?

Borda: We work as much with our existing companies to grow and expand as we do with new companies and with startups locally, so we handle a lot of folks that are trying to start a business for the first time. That’s where the real growth in America comes from is very small business anyway. But we’ve had several really cool expansions here in my eight years. …

EDFP: If you could spend a day with just one person, who would it be?

Borda: It would be the president so I could tell him exactly where he could make cuts. I think that I know a lot about where we have gone wrong in the federal government, and I’ve always said I would like to be president for just a day. I would, too; it’s a serious thing.

EDFP: What advice have you given your replacement?

Borda: I’ve told him to be a leader, not to be a manager, because through leadership you are a manager. … I don’t have to tell him much. He’s a very, very, very smart guy. I fully expect Sheldon to take this organization to another level from what I’ve done, and I’ve recruited him for that. I really believe in a position like this you need to find your successor and make sure they’re the best they can possibly find. I’m totally confident I found the best.

EDFP: Sheldon, what do you hope to accomplish as a leader?

Mudd: Like Pam said, taking the organization to the next level. One thing I have learned just being associated with the organization over the past two years is that there is a tremendous amount of opportunity that we have probably not tapped into simply because we haven’t gotten to that point yet. We definitely see now the global markets that exist, and we see now what role we might have.

We might be part of this small region in rural Nevada, but we play a huge part when it comes to the global markets. I think that is something that in the long run we’ll certainly look at. We ultimately want to make this area a better place to live for all of us — an attractive place to live, a profitable place to live, a place where we can raise our kids and have a good quality of life and so forth. That’s what it boils down to. We’ll certainly explore better ways to achieve that. How’s that?

Borda: That was awesome.

I have spent the past year and a half bringing these other counties on board, so we haven’t had a chance to get going, and Sheldon will.

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$1,000 reward for info in poaching of bull elk in northeastern Elko County

ELKO — Game wardens are seeking the public’s assistance to help solve a case of a bull elk that was killed and left to waste in the Delano Range north of Montello.

The bull was found in Hunt Unit 081 west of Division Canyon, approximately 150 yards north of the Thousand Springs Road between the Winecup Ranch and the Gamble Ranch.

“We believe the bull was shot sometime between Friday, November 17, and Sunday morning, November 19,” said Nick Brunson, Nevada Department of Wildlife game warden. “Another bull was shot and harvested in close proximity of the one that was left to waste.”

Brunson also said tire tracks led to the bull that was harvested, where the head and meat were removed, then continued on to within 10 feet of the second bull that was left to waste. It is believed that the same party shot both bulls.

“There were a lot of hunters in the area who might have seen something,” said Brunson. “We hope that someone will come forward with information that will help us solve this crime. It is a senseless act that should have people upset.”

There is a $1,000 reward from Operation Game Thief for information leading to a conviction of this crime. Witnesses may call 800-992-3030 to report information on this or any other wildlife-related crime.

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Nevada congressman latest to be accused of sexual harassment

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the House Democrats’ campaign committee called on a first-term congressman from Nevada to step down after a report Friday that he allegedly sexually harassed his campaign’s finance director.

BuzzFeed News reported that Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen is alleged to have repeatedly made sexual advances toward the aide during his 2016 congressional campaign. BuzzFeed withheld her last name at her request.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said House members and candidates should be held to the highest standard, and anyone guilty of sexual harassment or assault should not hold elected office. He added in a statement Friday, “Congressman Kihuen should resign.”

Kihuen’s said in a statement that the aide was a valued member of his team. “I sincerely apologize for anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable. I take this matter seriously as it is not indicative of who I am,” Kihuen said. “But I want to make it clear that I don’t recall any of the circumstances she described.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., called for a “full, fair and expedient investigation against Congressman Kihuen and any other member of Congress who have women or men come forward with allegations of inappropriate behavior.”

“This process must be open, transparent and have an appropriate investigatory timeline that delivers justice,” she said.

In the BuzzFeed report, the woman, identified only as Samantha, said Kihuen propositioned her for dates and sex despite her repeated rejections. On two occasions, she said, he touched her thighs without consent.