Where are the tribes? Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, left, signed a key agreement with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) on February 5, 2018, but Yerington Paiute and Walker River Paiute leaders weren't at the table. Photo: GovSandoval

Another slap in the face in Nevada? Yerington Paiute Tribe slams lack of consultation

The Yerington Paiute Tribe continues to be left out of decisions affecting a polluted mining site in Nevada.

In February the Trump administration agreed to defer a potential Superfund listing for the abandoned Anaconda Copper Mine Site. The tribe wasn't consulted by Administrator Scott Pruitt of the Environmental Protection Agency or by Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) before they signed the agreement, The Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

“As Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, you failed to meet any standard of consultation on a government-to-government basis prior to making the decision to enter into the deferral agreement with Nevada,” Chairman Laurie Thom told Pruitt in a March 8 letter, the paper reported.

A separate letter about consultation was sent to Sandoval on May 18, the paper reported. Yet his office claims he never saw it until now -- even though the tribe was talking about the Anaconda mine in the media at the time.

“The Governor has a strong working relationship with the Yerington Paiute Tribe, most recently with the work he's done with it to sign a compact that allows the tribe to sell marijuana and so he is naturally disappointed the letter was provided to the press before it was provided to him,” a spokesperson told The Gazette-Journal.

Complaints about consultation made the news last month with respect to H.R.5347, the Lyon County Economic Development and Environmental Remediation Act. The bill would transfer more than 2,000 acres of polluted property from the federal government to a private corporation even though the tribe has already expressed interest in the land.

The snub angered Chairman Amber Torres of the Walker River Paiute Tribe. She called the lack of consultation a "blatant slap in the face to us as tribes," The Gazette-Journal reported at the time.

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: "We want to make sure this doesn't happen to another tribe"

The Yerington Paiute Tribe has sued Atlantic Richfield and BP America in hopes of forcing a cleanup at the Anaconda site. Uranium, arsenic and other dangerous toxins have contaminated the soil and groundwater.

Putting the site on the Superfund National Priorities List could help spur cleanup. In signing the deferral, the EPA claimed it "engaged" with tribes before taking action.

"In July 2017, Nevada requested that EPA defer NPL listing of areas of the mine not on tribal lands; and since then, EPA has engaged with Governor Brian Sandoval (R-NV), the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, tribes, and stakeholders to complete the necessary agreements to defer the mine from final NPL listing," a press release at the time stated.

The press release includes photos of Pruitt signing the deferral agreement with Sandoval and with "community leaders" at their side. According to Chairman Thom, tribal leaders were invited to the February 5 meeting at the last minute yet they weren't told the Cabinet official was coming.

"We did not get told that Administrator Pruitt was going to be there to defer this mine we've been fighting," Thom said a week later, during the winter meeting of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C.

Thom also said the EPA event was scheduled as the tribe was heading out of town for a previously scheduled meeting.

"We don't believe EPA can sign away their trust responsibility to the state of Nevada," Thom said on February 14. "We want to make sure this doesn't happen to another tribe."

In other Yerington Paiute news, the tribe recently opened Pesha’ Numma Dispensary, a marijuana outlet. The tribe made a payment of around $3,300 to the city of Yerington in connection with sales taxes charged to non-Indians, The Gazette-Journal reported.

According to the paper, the payment represents 3 percent of revenues from the first 45 days of operation. That would mean the tribe made at least $82,500 in sales during that time.

Non-Indians account for 60 percent of the customer base, Thom told the paper.

Read More on the Story:
Nevada tribe says Sandoval and Pruitt didn’t adequately consult on Superfund decision (The Reno Gazette-Journal June 7, 2018)
Tribe issues first marijuana payment to city (The Reno Gazette-Journal June 6, 2018)

An Opinion:
Sarah Peters: Nevada ill-equipped to handle Yerington Anaconda Superfund Site cleanup (The Reno Gazette-Journal May 29, 2018)

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