Nevada Tribe Demands Answers from EPA and British Petroleum

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Yerington Paiute Tribe Demands Information about EPA/British Petroleum Anaconda Mine Deferral Decision

“if this is any indication of how our government is going to deal with ARC and BP going forward, we should all be very concerned.” Laurie Thom YPT Chairman

The Yerington Paiute Tribe (YPT) has submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to demand records and correspondence from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the Department of the Interior (DOI), The Nevada Department of Environmental Protection (NDEP) and the office of the Governor of the State of Nevada, regarding the United States EPA’s decision to defer the Anaconda Mine Site in Yerington, Nevada. By agreeing to a deferral, it appears that the EPA has effectively turned over its responsibilities to the State of Nevada, including its trust duties owed to the Yerington Paiute Tribe. The Tribe’s FOIA requests includes all correspondence and communications these governmental entities have had with the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARC), a subsidiary of British Petroleum (BP) and the company responsible for the Anaconda Mine Site and the environmental damage suffered by the Tribe and Mason Valley Community.

The EPA’s decision to defer the Site to the State of Nevada came as a surprise to the Tribe, which was not notified of the decision until the day it was made. The EPA Policy on Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribes states that the “EPA recognizes the federal government’s trust responsibility, which derives from the historical relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes as expressed in certain treaties and federal Indian law”, and that the “EPA ensures the close involvement of tribal governments and gives special consideration to their interests whenever EPA’s actions may affect Indian country or other tribal interests”. Moreover, that Policy calls on the EPA “to consult on a government-to-government basis” with Tribes “when EPA actions and decisions affect tribal interests”, and that such “[c]consultation is a process of meaningful communication and coordination between EPA and tribal officials prior to EPA taking actions or implementing decisions that may affect tribes.”

The EPA did not consult on a government-to-government basis prior to entering into the deferral agreement with the State of Nevada. The Tribe believes that the United States ignored its own policies in favor of catering to ARC, BP, the State of Nevada and other business interest to the detriment of the Tribe, particularly where that agreement removes committed funding and oversight by the Tribe.

Deferral of the Site was under consideration purportedly as a way to save taxpayer dollars by accepting private funding and removing the burden of funding from the US Government and taxpayers. The actual amount of money saved through deferral of the Site is debatable. The United States had already incurred nearly $30 million in expenses relating to the Site, but agreed to settle with ARC and BP a mere $3.5 million dollars. One of the Tribe’s goals through FOIA is to ask why the United States apparently gave away nearly $27 million in taxpayer money to ARC and BP, and how these governmental entities can be trusted or afford to ensure that the Anaconda Mine Site – and the Tribe’s land –is properly and fully cleaned up. Yerington Paiute Tribe Chairman Laurie Thom stated that, “if this is any indication of how our government is going to deal with ARC and BP going forward, we should all be very concerned.”

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Ginny Hatch
Yerington Paiute Tribe
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