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County planning commissioners say no to permit for kitty litter mine

HUNGRY VALLEY, Nev. ? The Washoe County planning commissioners have voted to deny a permit to the Oil-Dri Corporation for a kitty litter mine near the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. The 5-2 vote has temporarily stopped the corporation from opening a proposed strip mine in the area.

At the stockholder's December meeting in Chicago, Oil-Dri executives told stockholders that they believed there would be no problems in obtaining the permits to open the mine, despite the fact opponents of the project had shown up uninvited at the meeting to protest the project. The 'no' vote from the west may raise the financial stakes as Oil-Dri attempts to sway public opinion on the matter.

A large crowd attended the Washoe County Planning Commissioners meeting to protest once again against what they consider to be an invasion to their community. Holding a candlelight protest and signs, residents and their supporters danced outside the meeting while a drum group provided music. Inside the meeting the volatile issue of the kitty litter mine caused members of the planning commission to ask the outspoken opponents of the mine to refrain from outbursts of applause.

The heated debate over issuing the controversial permit lasted past midnight, meaning commissioners weren't able to vote until the early hours of the morning, after the testimonies of local residents and representatives from the Oil-Dri Corporation were heard.

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Oil-Dri continued to insist that the proposed mine and processing plan would have minimal impact on the surrounding area. However, commission staff members had already made a recommendation to the planning commission in the week before the meeting. The staff had suggested that the commission deny the permit because of concerns raised by the Citizens for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods regarding high volumes of truck traffic, noise and air pollution.

Although the Bureau of Land Management had cleared the way for Oil-Dri, opponents state that the proposed mine is on private property and will still have to have permits issued by the local planning commission.

Opponents of the proposed mine know the battle isn't over and are now planning their next strategy. Local activists and residents of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony joined together under the name of Citizens for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods. Working together, the group has made sure that not only Oil-Dri, but environmental groups as well, know about their opposition to the proposed kitty litter mine.

While there is a temporary lull in the battle over the kitty litter mine, both sides appear to be preparing to continue their battle over the site.

Oil-Dri is expected to appeal the decision of the county planning commission before the full county commission during an upcoming Jan. 22, 2002, meeting.