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KUNR Today: State approves permits for Thacker Pass lithium mine, REMSA changes 911 call policy

An image of a wide vista of sagebrush
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
The proposed area for the Thacker Pass lithium mine, which received three state environmental permits on February 25, 2022.

Read the morning news headlines for Monday, Feb. 28, 2022.

Lithium Nevada receives state environmental permits for Thacker Pass project
By Andrew Méndez

Lithium Nevada has been issuedair quality, water pollution control and mining reclamation permits by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection to move forward with the Thacker Pass project. The permits are required for the company to construct and operate the mine. Requests for appeals must be filed by March 7.

The project is located in Humboldt County near the Oregon border. Indigenous groups and environmentalists say the land is sacred and excavation would damage environmental resources.

Activists and tribes have filed lawsuitson the matter, arguing that the Bureau of Land Management has violated the National Historic Preservation Act, among other complaints. Additionally, activists camped out at the site in an effort to stop the project.

Thacker Pass is home to the largest known deposit of lithium in the country.

REMSA changes dispatch policy as non-emergency calls increase
By Andrew Méndez

REMSA Health, a regional ambulance provider, has changed the way it will handle 911 calls in light of the overuse of non-emergency calls. Close to 30% of local calls to the organization are for incidents that require first aid care, like sprained ankles and toothaches.

Emergency dispatchers will now ask individuals to give an explanation for their call and, depending on the circumstances, will either refer them to a registered nurse or send an ambulance in cases of true emergencies.

According to a press release, REMSA wants to limit the number of ambulances sent out to cases that are not emergencies; however, if a dispatcher has concerns about a patient's condition, REMSA will dispatch an ambulance to transport the individual to a hospital. The policy will not apply to minors and women who are pregnant or in labor.

The organization urged individuals to only dial 911 if they are experiencing severe symptoms such as chest pain, seizures, or traumatic injury, among others.

Washoe County, Carson City School Districts end masking on buses
By KUNR Staff

Washoe County and Carson City School Districts announced over the weekend that masks are no longer required on buses or vans. The policy starts Monday and follows new guidance from the CDC issued last week.

GOP Senate hopeful Adam Laxalt blames Biden for invasion of Ukraine
By Andrew Méndez

Nevada Senate hopeful Adam Laxalt tweeted last week that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “terrible” and that President Joe Biden’s lack of strong foreign policy is to blame for the attack, which he said was entirely avoidable. Additionally, Laxalt says the Russian invasion could potentially affect Nevada’s gas prices.

The GOP primary front runner’s response contrasted with former president Donald Trump, who described Russia’s strategy as ‘savvy’ and ‘genius.' Laxalt has received an endorsement from Trump for his campaign and recently attended a fundraiser held by Trump.

Laxalt is looking to unseat Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who condemnedRussian President Vladamir Putin, saying he must be held accountable. Senator Jacky Rosen released a similar statement. Since the invasion, President Biden placed sanctions on Russia limiting what can be exported to the country.

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that Laxalt has said the Russian invasion, instead of U.S. sanctions, could impact gas prices.

Catholic Charities to open food pantry in Sun Valley
By Andrew Méndez

Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada is set to open a food pantry Tuesday in Sun Valley. Individuals will be able to go into the pantry and choose items that will meet their dietary needs, as opposed to a previous model in which a pre-packaged kit was provided.

The pantry is expected to be open on Tuesdays and Fridays weekly. In addition to food services, the location is expected to eventually provide health screenings, immigration assistance and parenting classes. This will be one of eight locations where Catholic Charities offers food services.

New California rules aim to lower property insurance rates
By The Associated Press

California's insurance commissioner has announced new rules aimed at lowering premiums for people who improve their property to resist wildfires. Ricardo Lara said Friday the new rules will require insurance companies to factor property owners’ improvements into the pricing of residential and commercial coverage. He said the new rules could take effect this summer.

Friday’s announcement follow’s last week’s news that the state is setting new insurance standards. Those new standards include a fire-resistant roof, at least 5 feet of defensible space around a home, a clearly defined evacuation route in a neighborhood and removal of vegetation overgrowth.

It's a bear battalion! Hank the Tank turns out to be 3 bears
By The Associated Press

Hank the Tank is actually a three-bear battalion. DNA evidence now shows that the 500-pound black bear the public had nicknamed “Hank the Tank” is, in fact, three not-so-little bears who have damaged more than 30 properties around Lake Tahoe in recent months.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife on Thursday said it will soon begin trapping bears in the South Lake Tahoe area to tag the animals and collect evidence for genetic analysis. The bears will be released in a “suitable habitat” and the agency said no trapped animals will be euthanized as part of the project.

The bears are responsible for more than 150 incident reports in the region straddling Northern California and Nevada.

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