A new whistleblower complaint reported by Politico alleges the Trump administration flouts environmental law by fast-tracking permits on public land.
The whistleblower, Dan Patterson, is an environmental protection specialist in the Western region of the Bureau of Land Management. Patterson filed the complaint after being placed on unpaid leave after raising questions about the district's conduct involving a planned lithium mining operation on federal land where an endangered type of buckwheat grows.
In another case, a group of influential families was able to build private cabins on BLM land by saying they were running an active gold mine.
According to Politico, the Department of the Interior's inspector general is looking into the allegations, and BLM officials responded they "stand ready to assist and provide information to the Office of the Special Counsel or the DOI Office of the Inspector General if asked."
However, until the probe is finished, BLM said it cannot "comment on the truth or accuracy of the whistleblower complaint's allegations, or of Politico's characterization of such allegations."
A 2017 executive order by President Donald Trump allowed for fast-tracking of minerals such as lithium deemed critical to the national interest. According to the complaint, that order was used by Ioneer, one of the world's largest lithium-producing companies in the world to fast-track a project that environmentalists feared would endanger a rare form a buckwheat.
A subsequent lawsuit has since put the project on hold.
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