December 26, 2012
[...] Wyoming environment officials issued the first permit exempting several deep groundwater aquifers on the [Christensen] ranch from environmental protection in 1988. It said the water was of relatively poor quality, and was too deep and too remote to be used for drinking. The permit did not address the possibility that usable aquifers could lie in even deeper rock layers beneath the site.
The EPA confirmed the state’s exemptions and issued separate ones allowing the mine operator to contaminate the shallow layer of groundwater closest to the surface, where anyone who needed water — including John Christensen — was likely to go for it first.
Even as they gave their stamp of approval, EPA officials noted that the mine operator’s application had not set precise boundaries for the depth or breadth of the exempted area. “The information contained in the submittal does not specifically delineate the area to be designated,” the EPA’s Denver chief administrator acknowledged in a letter to Wyoming regulators in August 1988.