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Mining
EPA administrator visits Nevada silver-gold mine

An agency that encourages stewardship over prohibition is the Environmental Protection Agency that Administrator Scott Pruitt represented to the Nevada mining industry on Feb. 5.

The presidential cabinet member visited Coeur Mining Inc.’s Rochester mine near Lovelock to discuss the agency’s December decision not to issue final regulations for financial responsibility requirements for certain hardrock mining operations.

“What is environmental stewardship? What is environmental protection?” Pruitt asked. “I think as we work together over the next several years, we need to get back to stewardship, not prohibition.”

The EPA decided not to issue the final rules under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act — CERCLA or Superfund — “because the risks associated with these facilities’ operations are addressed by existing federal and state programs and industry practices,” according to an EPA statement. The rules regarding mine reclamation would have affected 45 facilities across Nevada, he said, and many more across the country.

After a tour of the silver-and-gold open pit mine, Pruitt addressed some of Coeur Rochester’s 300 employees in the truck shop. Also in attendance were Nevada officials, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, Nevada Mining Association President Dana Bennett, Bureau of Land Management’s Nevada Director John Ruhs, and industry experts.

“The agency that I’ve been selected to lead, the last several years has been weaponized. It’s been weaponized against certain sectors of our economy, and yours was one of them,” Pruitt said. “Think about that for a second. An agency in Washington, D.C., weaponized against its own sectors of the economy across this country. That’s not the way it should work.”

Sandoval reminded listeners that Nevada already has policies in place to ensure good stewardship of the environment. He echoed the administrator’s statement that additional regulations would have placed undue burden on the mining industry and economy of rural Nevada.

“Nevada’s our house,” Sandoval said. “We’re proud of it, and we take good care of it.”

During a seven-month EPA public comment period in 2017 before the decision, Sandoval joined governors from across the country in declaring additional financial assurances for mine reclamation redundant, a point he revisited during the event.

“In our state, there are requirements that have been in place since 1991,” Sandoval said, explaining that Nevada requires $2.7 billion in bonding for 167,000 acres. “I’m really proud of our regulatory system. It serves as a national model.”

Pruitt said he aims to help restore cooperative partnerships between the states and the federal government to be good stewards of the environment. What he described as a “commonsense” approach acknowledges that states have financial assurances already in place and that the proposed policy was not cost-effective for taxpayers. He said the decision reflects the direction of President Donald Trump to “put America first.”

“We recognized that you in Nevada recognize that you care about the air that you breathe, the water you drink and how you take care of your land in the state,” Pruitt said. “Having a rule that was punitive, weaponized against the mining sector, was not a reason to have the rule, so we stopped the rule.”

The administrator and governor stressed that the result of not requiring additional financial assurances should stimulate the economy, as mining companies invest in jobs and expand operations.

“This truly is something we should all celebrate because it does reverberate to all of you, because we don’t have to do this redundant bonding. That allows the mine to continue to invest in all of you,” Sandoval said. “It allows you to go beyond and expand the mine to have that mine life so that all of you can have this continuous employment.”

Pruitt also announced that EPA staff members are examining their processes for approving permits, which sometimes take 20 years to approve. He said they plan to streamline processes so that EPA-approved environmental permits can be decided in six months, starting in late 2018.

“The agency that I’ve been selected to lead, the last several years has been weaponized. It’s been weaponized against certain sectors of our economy, and yours was one of them.” — EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

Local
top story
Lincoln Day Dinner slated Friday

ELKO – Tuesday is the last day to RSVP for the Elko County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner to be held Feb. 9 at the Boys and Girls Club.

Tickets are $65 for a single or $500 for a table of eight.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei are two of the Republican incumbent candidates attending along with Senate candidates Danny Tarkanian and Sarah Gzala.

Candidates for governor and Congress are not yet confirmed, said Elko County GOP Chairman Lee Hoffman.

At the dinner, Republican candidates will take part in a Q & A format instead of a keynote.

“We’re not going to have people give formal addresses and we don’t have a keynote speaker,” Hoffman said.

“We have prepared questions that we think are of interest for Elko County voters.”

Attendees will have an opportunity to meet the candidates in person at 5:30 p.m. at a hosted reception for ticket holders. No host cocktails are at 6:30 p.m. and dinner starts at 7 p.m.

“Hopefully people will attend early and talk with the candidates,” Hoffman said.

During the dinner, an auction and drawing “always has exciting things of note,” Hoffman said, adding that some of the items include a “very nice” shotgun and half a beef.

For information and to RSVP, go to www.elkonvgop.org.


Local
top story
Snow report: 2018 off to a dry start

ELKO – Northeastern Nevada was dodged by the latest chance of precipitation Monday as rainfall skirted the Idaho border.

Snowpack in regional basins was about 50 percent of average on Feb. 1, announced the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Snow depth in the Upper Humboldt River Basin ranged from one inch at Dry Creek, which is 20 percent of normal; to 38 inches at the Lamoille No. 5 station elevation of 8,700 feet, which is 75 percent of normal.

The Lower Humboldt had slightly less snow with a basin-wide average of 45 percent, while Clover Valley and Franklin River basins averaged slightly more at 54 percent.

The driest region was the Owyhee River Basin at 34 percent of average. Snow depths there measured from zero inches at Taylor Canyon to 36 inches at Jack’s Peak.

The Snake River Basin in the Jarbidge area was listed at 52 percent of average.

Little relief is expected in the near future. The National Weather Service forecast for Elko calls for sunny and dry weather for at least the next week, with highs approaching 60 degrees Thursday and Friday.


Crime-and-courts
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Meth trafficking bust Saturday in Elko

ELKO – Two Elko men were arrested Saturday morning on drug charges after one of them was pulled over for an alleged traffic violation.

Peter J. Alberro, 52, was stopped for failure to yield at Spruce Road and Mountain City Highway, and he consented to a search of his vehicle, according to Elko Police Department Lt. Michael Palhegyi. Officers found a meth pipe so they called in a canine to determine if drugs were in the vehicle.

Police confiscated 24.86 grams of methamphetamine.

Based on that arrest and earlier investigation, police obtained a search warrant for a home in the 400 block of Oak Street. Assisted by the narcotics task force and SWAT team, they found additional meth and prescription pills packaged for sale.

Anthony J. Estrella, 39, of Elko was arrested at the residence.

Alberro faces two counts of trafficking a controlled substance, three felony counts of possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to sell, possession of a dangerous drug without a prescription, six counts of use or possession of drug paraphernalia, failure to yield at a stop or yield sign, and passenger obstructing driver’s vision or control of vehicle. His bail was set at $203,430.

Estrella was arrested for felony possession with intent to sell a controlled substance, and use or possession of drug paraphernalia. His bail was set at $100,640.

According to Elko Daily Free Press records, Estrella was also arrested in December on a felony warrant for trafficking and selling a controlled substance.

Palhegyi said the investigation is ongoing.