By Debbie Coffey   Copyright 2010       All Rights Reserved.

 

“Bob Abbey, for his efforts, was promoted in 2009 and became the national Director of the BLM.  The issue regarding Abbey firing a whistleblower was not raised during his confirmation hearing.  Then, Secretary Ken Salazar also named Abbey interim Director of the Minerals Management Service, “the scandal-ridden agency responsible for the oversight of offshore drilling,” to oversee the cleanup of BP’s Gulf oil spill. “___________________________________

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, who has been called “the godfather of Nevada’s casino-real estate-development nexus and hard rock mining,” nominated Bob Abbey to be the Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

What did Bob Abbey do before he became Director of the BLM? 

Well for one thing, as the Nevada State Director of the BLM, Bob Abbey illegally fired Earle Dixon in 2004 for whistleblowing about radioactive uranium contamination from a mine in Nevada.

Earle Dixon, a mine hydrogeology specialist, was the Project Manager overseeing the cleanup of the Yerington Mine at the edge of Yerington in western Nevada.  The Anaconda Copper Co. had mined and processed copper ore at this 3,500 acre site for more than 25 years.  The site was bought by a subsidiary of BP (British Petroleum): ARCO (formerly called Atlantic Richfield).  The cleanup included contaminated groundwater, metal-contaminated mine tailings and radioactive evaporation ponds.   Dixon was trying to protect the health and safety of the cleanup workers and local residents, as well as make sure that the mine cleanup complied with the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, and other laws.  Bob Abbey wrote a letter firing Dixon because he “alienated many of the groups that we, as an agency responsible for managing public lands, need to deal with in accomplishing our mission in an efficient and effective manner.” 

Elyssa Rosen, executive director of Great Basin Mine Watch stated “it sure looks fishy when you fire the guy who was finding and publicizing the radioactivity.”
It is fishy.  The “groups” Bob Abbey and the BLM are catering to and protecting are the mining companies responsible for contaminating untold amounts of water and depleting our aquifers.  The “mission” the BLM is accomplishing is to make money selling our public assets, our water and our public lands.   

Dixon stated he repeatedly had disagreements with state officials over the presence of radioactivity at the mine, whether the uranium found in the drinking water of Yerington residents was from the mine, and how to best protect cleanup workers and locals from radioactive contamination.  Meanwhile, ARCO denied the uranium came from the mine. 
Dixon documented these disagreements.  In January 2004 he wrote a letter saying the state’s worker health and safety plan was unacceptable and did not meet federal standards: “State (BLM) Director Office staff” (this was Bob Abbey’s office) “modify letter to make it more politically acceptable & friendly.” 

How did Bob Abbey’s office come up with wording to modify a letter to make exposure to radioactive uranium contamination sound more “friendly?”  

In Dixon’s opinion, the problems at Yerington – the mining company’s attempts to avoid responsibility, the state’s efforts to protect the company instead of the community, and the unwillingness of a federal agency to uphold federal laws – weren’t limited to just one mine site.  Dixon stated “That model can be applied to mines across the West.” 

No wonder Bob Abbey wanted to shut him up. 

In a 2006 decision in Earle Dixon v. U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Dixon won his case: it concluded that Dixon was fired for being a whistleblower.   

Bob Abbey, for his efforts, was promoted in 2009 and became the national Director of the BLM.  The issue regarding Abbey firing a whistleblower was not raised during his confirmation hearing.  Then, Secretary Ken Salazar also named Abbey interim Director of the Minerals Management Service, “the scandal-ridden agency responsible for the oversight of offshore drilling,” to oversee the cleanup of BP’s Gulf oil spill. 

Here is an interesting excerpt from an interview (6/2/10) with Earle Dixon in Government Security News by Jacob Goodwin:

“When Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the appointment of Bob Abbey as the new acting director of the Minerals Management Service (MMS), he said Abbey’s leadership of onshore energy reforms, ‘is exactly the kind of experience we need as we continue to reform and begin to restructure MMS.’”

“When an oversight agency is paid by the companies it is regulating, that’s a conflict-of-interest, and it’ll never be a true regulator,’ said Earle Dixon, who has investigated environmental conditions at several commercial mining operations around the country.  Dixon’s environmental concerns at Yerington made officials at the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection – as well as its political supporters in the office of the governor, a prominent congressman, and the Lyon County board of commissioners – extremely uncomfortable because they did not want to impose rigorous inspections and costly cleanup procedures on the mining companies that are so critical to the state’s economy.

At that time, three independent agencies had signed a Memorandum of Understanding which theoretically empowered them to oversee the cleanup at Yerington, rather than passing that cleanup responsibility to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which wanted to designate the abandoned mine as a Superfund site.”

“The MOU was nothing more than a gentlemen’s agreement to do a ‘Superfund Lite’ — like Bud Lite — because they didn’t want any extra scrutiny to be placed on the Yerington mine site,” explained Dixon, in his conversation with GSN. “They were scared of a Domino Theory that says, ‘The more you sample, the more you’ll find.’ That could have set up a template for other mines in Nevada which are also leaking and seeping stuff out into the environment,” Dixon added. “They didn’t want that.”

Dixon told GSN: “My hypothesis was proven correct by EPA last year [2009] after they ordered BP to drill and sample multiple monitoring wells that scientificlly demonstrated the uranium contamination offsite in the ground water is from the mine.”

After Abbey’s stint as Director of Nevada BLM (1997-2005) and prior to becoming Director of the BLM, Bob Abbey was a partner in a consulting firm called Abbey, Stubbs & Ford (2005-2009).  His partner, Mike Ford, had been the deputy state director for the BLM in Nevada, and Chief of the BLM’s Land and Realty Branch in Washington D.C.  Ford was also the legislative assistant responsible for public land and environmental issues for U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.).  Sen. Domenici was the strongest supporter of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump.

After Bob Abbey left to become Director of the BLM in 2009, the company name of Abbey, Stubbs & Ford changed to Robcyn LLC.  On the Robcyn website, they describe their company as a “public land and mineral consulting firm.”  Their clients include Coyote Springs Land Company, American Nevada Company and Southern Nevada Water Authority (all mentioned in the article “Senator Harry Reid is working hard – But for whom?” at https://ppjg.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/senator-harry-reid-is-working-hard-%e2%80%93-but-for-whom/#more-10900 ).  Also in connection with this article, it turns out that in 2003, Abbey’s (then future) partner, Mike Ford, was an environmental consultant for Coyote Springs, controlled by Senator Reid’s close friend, lobbyist/attorney/developer Harvey Whittemore.  Robcyn also represents major real estate developers.  Abbey’s partners Mike Ford and Barry Stubbs were both listed in 2009 as members of Republicans for Reid (who is a Democrat). 

Robcyn seems to cut through the red tape with federal agencies.  You don’t have to strain your brain too much to wonder who they have an “in” with. 

Sources:

http://www.hcn.org/issues/289/15192/

http://www.fws.gov/Nevada/highlights/comment/csi/AppC_May%202005%20Informal%20Consultation%20Letter%20from%20USFWS%20to%20CSI.pdf

http://www.lasvegasmercury.com/2003/MERC-Oct-23-Thu-2003/22378816.html 

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/29/us/29mms.html?src=twt&twt=nytimesbusiness

http://www.whorunsgov.com/Profiles/Robert_Abbey 

http://www.gsnmagazine.com/article/20817/former_blm_whistleblower_questions_abbey%E2%80%99s_suitabi

http://www.allgov.com/ViewNews/Director_of_the_Bureau_of_Land_Management__Who_Is_Bob_Abbey_91201

http://www.newsreview.com/reno/content?oid=68001

http://www.portfolio.com/news-markets/national-news/portfolio/2008/01/14/Harry-Reid-Nevada-Water-Issue  “When Harry Met Vegas” by Peter Waldman, Conde Nast portfolio.com (1/14/08)

www.robcynllc.com

Advertisements