Greens try lawsuits to thwart Nevada lithium mine
Green opponents to a proposed Biden administration-backed green energy project are making a last-ditch effort in court to block construction of a lithium mine about 200 miles northeast of Reno, Nevada.
Joined by an Oregon tribe, four environmental groups Feb. 21 asked Reno-based U.S. District Judge Miranda Du to temporarily halt work on the proposed mine near the Oregon border until they have had time to appeal her ruling from earlier in the month to let the project, with certain restrictions, go forward. That appeal, in the form of an emergency motion, would be before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
“This mine should not be allowed to destroy public lands unless and until the Ninth Circuit Court has determined whether it was legally approved,” Talasi Brooks, a lawyer for the Western Watersheds Project, told ABC News.
Lithium Nevada, a subsidiary of Lithium Americas, said in mid-February that construction of the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine was “imminent” after Judge Du ruled Feb. 6 that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had acted legally – with one possible exception – when it approved plans for the mine in January 2021.
A Decade in the Making
Lithium Americas is optimistic that the project will finally get off the ground.
“Since we started this project more than a decade ago, we have been committed to doing things right, Tim Crowley, Lithium Americas spokesman told the Associated Press in an email. “The recent U.S. District Court ruling definitively supports BLM’s consultation process, and we are confident that the ruling will be upheld.”
The Biden White House enthusiastically supports the project, saying the lithium is key in producing lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles (EVs). But some environmental groups, though hot to trot for green energy, oppose the mine, saying it will harm wildlife habitat, degrade groundwater, and pollute the air. Joining this green vs. green clash are tribal members who say the mine and its disposal areas are too close to grounds they hold as sacred.
“It symbolizes BLM’s wrecking ball approach to ‘green’ energy on public lands,” said Katie Fite of Wildlands Defense.
The one sticking point Judge Du raised in her Feb. 6 ruling is whether Lithium Americas had established valid mining rights on 1,300 acres of neighboring land, where it plans to bury millions of tons of waste rock that would be removed from the open-pit mine. But she stopped short of granting opponents’ request at the time to block any work at the site until the validity of the claim was established under the Mining Law of 1872 on the adjacent lands
“There’s no evidence that Lithium Nevada will be able to establish mining rights to lands it plans to bury in waste rock and tailings, but the damage will be done regardless,” the Western Wildlands Project’s Brooks said in a statement announcing the filing for an emergency injunction.
GM-Lithium Americas Joint Venture
While all sides wait for the issue of mine waste disposal on adjacent land to be resolved, General Motors Company, which is committed to becoming an all-EV producer by 2035, announced Jan. 31 that it was teaming up with Lithium Americas. ABC reports that GM has conditionally agreed to invest $650 million in a deal that will give it exclusive access to the first phase of the Thacker Pass mine. The deal is contingent on Lithium America’s overcoming the legal challenges to the project pending in Reno, and possibly in San Francisco.
The rush to convert to EVs continues apace, even as the costs of raw materials for EV batteries continue to climb, and the human costs of child labor used to extract cobalt in central Africa raise doubts about the moral underpinnings of the transition to green energy.
Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.
Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with CFACT, where he focuses on natural resources, energy, property rights, and geopolitical developments. Articles by Dr. Cohen have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investor’s Business Daily, The New York Post, The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times, The Hill, The Epoch Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Miami Herald, and dozens of other newspapers around the country. He has been interviewed on Fox News, Fox Business Network, CNN, NBC News, NPR, BBC, BBC Worldwide Television, N24 (German-language news network), and scores of radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. He has testified before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. Dr. Cohen has addressed conferences in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Bangladesh. He has a B.A. from the University of Georgia and a Ph. D. – summa cum laude – from the University of Munich.