Mercury control bill wins wide support from lawmakers | NevadaAppeal.com

Mercury control bill wins wide support from lawmakers

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, speaks to Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee on AB115 at the Legislature on Monday. The bill will change the monitoring of mercury released during mining.
ALL |

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, managed Monday to bring parties from the miners to environmentalists together to support legislation tightening controls over mercury emissions from Nevada mines.

AB115 originally drew protests from those groups, but Leslie told the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee those issues have been resolved by amendments that essentially rewrite the bill.

She said the bill is important because “mercury emissions are of great significance to many Nevadans.” She said they are especially worrisome to workers in Nevada’s gold mining industry. And the state recently issued a warning to people not to eat fish in six different bodies of water in the state – including the Carson River – because of mercury contamination.

The amended bill provides additional regulations to improve worker health and safety in Nevada mines. It also adds two inspectors to the Division of Mines, who will make unannounced visits to mines in the state to make sure they are following rules designed to prevent mercury spills and emissions both in the water and air.

Russ Fields of the Nevada Mining Association said Nevada’s mercury emissions programs are unique and probably the best in the nation. He said the industry supports the changes in AB115 to improve safety for its workers and reduce the chance of emissions. To that end, he said, they support increasing their own fees to pay for the added inspectors.

Steve Robinson of the governor’s staff said with that support, Gov. Jim Gibbons will also support the legislation. He said the compromise is proof the state “can address environmental concerns and still have a healthy mining industry.”

Kyle Davis, of the Nevada Conservation League, said that organization supports the bill as “something we can all get behind and that will make a difference.”

Even Dan Randolph, of Great Basin Mine Watch, an environmental group working to reduce pollution and other impacts of mining, said the bill is a good compromise and should be supported.

Committee Chairman John Oceguera, D-Henderson, said he will bring the measure to a vote as soon as the amended language is put into the bill.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.