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"People's EPA" Hearing Tonight in Reno

Carson River is one of Nevada's two Superfund sites whose cleanup is funded and managed by the EPA. (Castlelass/Morguefile)
Carson River is one of Nevada's two Superfund sites whose cleanup is funded and managed by the EPA. (Castlelass/Morguefile)
July 24, 2017

RENO, Nev. -- The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to start the process to rescind multiple environmental protections on Wednesday - the deadline under a review ordered by President Donald Trump. The agency hasn't announced its plans or even held a public hearing, so conservation groups are holding their own event tonight in Reno.

Speakers at the "People's EPA" will address the importance of EPA enforcement in cleaning up air, water and hundreds of old mill and mine sites in Nevada. Morgan Goodwin, an organizer with the National Wildlife Federation, said he fears the agency will weaken rules on oil and gas drilling, coal extraction and disposal of coal-ash waste, and will allow higher levels of mercury and other pollutants in the soil and air.

"A lot of the regulations that have been put in place to make those things less harmful to people would be rolled back, and we'd be stuck with industries that are basically making money and making electricity at the sake of human health,” Goodwin said.

The White House has given EPA Chief Scott Pruitt a mandate to weaken regulations that affect domestic energy production, but any changes must go through the federal rule-making process before they can take effect.

All comments made at Monday night's event will be recorded and forwarded to the EPA. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada in Reno.

Sarah Peters, a consultant with a Nevada environmental engineering firm that works on cleanup issues, will speak at the event. She said she grew up playing on mounds of soil she later found out were on the Carson River Superfund site.

"I found out that it was a Superfund site when I was in college, and mercury is the biggest concern,” Peters said. "I often wonder how much that impacts my personality today, and how much it would have impacted my parents if they had been better educated on where we were living."

Peters said historical mine and mill sites that were never cleaned up are still being discovered in Nevada. She worries that won't change, since President Trump's proposed budget dramatically slashes EPA funding.

A similar event took place last week in southern Nevada. Tonight's event is cosponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and Nevada Conservation League.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV