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Nevada Mercury Safeguards Hit Politically Dangerous Detour

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 By Michael Clifford/Craig Eicher, Contact
May 30, 2007

Carson City, NV - You might think that protecting Nevada's goldmine workers and the public have little to do with creating a Nevada Water Authority, but action in the capitol Tuesday means that passing the Mercury Bill (AB 115) could depend on what happens to the Water Authority Bill (SB 487). But Sen. Mark Amodei has tabled the bill.

Dan Randolph with Great Basin Mine Watch says public safety is being held hostage because the mining bill offers important new protections.

“It will go a long way towards solving a persistent and dangerous problem. And for a very, very unrelated, extremely controversial issue, it is being held up.”

The senator’s office declined to comment. In Nevada, any senator can essentially table a bill, called sending it to the secretary's desk, either for amendments, or to effectively kill it. The mining bill would beef up monitoring of emissions and update safety regulations for gold and silver mine workers.

Kyle Davis with the Nevada Conservation League says it's a case of 'apples and oranges'; because the mining bill has no opposition and even the backing of the mining industry, while the measure Sen. Amodei wants favorable action on (SB 487) has a great deal of opposition.

“The main one is that the bill that would create a Northern Nevada Water Authority. We have no idea how much that would cost ratepayers. It would also lead to pretty damaging environmental impacts coming from water importation out of rural counties in Nevada.”

Randolph adds that the mercury bill offers Nevada a chance to get a handle on a persistent problem.

“It is a really dangerous substance. It effects your brain, so for the workers, it's absolutely critical, and for the general public, we have to stop emitting as much mercury as we are. That isn't going to happen unless the state has the resources to properly oversee it.”

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