Burning Man is trying to get a ten-year agreement to continue holding the event in the Black Rock Desert. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has done a farcical Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Burning Man has analyzed the DEIS, and is calling for Burners to write comments. Cory Doctorow has written a terrific model letter.

I’m not going to repeat all the nonsense, but I’m pasting my letter below. Sheesh. C’mon folks, buckle down and write a letter. This is some serious bullshit.

———- Forwarded message ———
From: Me
Date: Sun, Apr 7, 2019 at 5:32 PM
Subject: environmental impact statement for Burning Man
To: <blm_nv_burningmaneis@blm.gov>
Cc: <eis@burningman.org>

Dear BLM, 

I have read an overview of the Burning Man DEIS with particular attention to the recommended mitigations. I have three comments and associated questions based on my ten years attending Burning Man. 

First, the call to increase security by requiring Burning Man to contract a private security service (PHS-1) is unnecessary and unjustified by the evidence presented. The “screening” foreseen in this claim is a search that is patently unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. The National Environmental Policy Act cannot be lawfully stretched to cover surveillance of this sort. It is grossly improper for BLM to request it.

The additional time required for the proposed screening of participants at the gate would be burdensome to the public and harmful to the environment. To be clear, Black Rock City is already pretty safe: in ten years I’ve had no issues whatsoever with firearms or anything else that required law enforcement. Indeed, the most serious safety risks I see each year are inevitably BLM Rangers and other law enforcement officials who are driving too fast.

Nearly every year I have to file notices with the Burning Man Rangers about unsafe driving by law enforcement; in 2018, I filed three notices. This happens both outside the city and inside the city when law enforcement speeds by pedestrians and bicyclists. The consistently irresponsible driving of BLM Rangers and Nevada county sheriffs also affects mitigation AQ-1. Just a few hours of observation out there makes clear that law enforcement vehicles speeding at well over 30 mph through unfenced areas are among biggest creators of dust problems.

What measures have you put in place to oversee the BLM Rangers to assure that they respect the safety and constitutional rights of the participants? I’m not asking that BLM Rangers “protect” participants’ safety. To the contrary, and to be clear, my question is: what is BLM doing to make sure that BLM Rangers don’t imperil people by unsafe driving or by unnecessary and violent policing? What training do the Rangers receive in protecting participants’ rights?

Second, the jersey barriers (PHS-3) are unnecessary. There are very few people who attempt to gain unauthorized entry into the event, and they are swiftly caught by Burning Man’s Gate, Perimeter, and Exodus staff. Have you considered how much energy would be required to manufacture and transport *nine miles* of jersey barriers? That’s about 19 million pounds of concrete and steel, perhaps one thousand 100+ mile round-trips in a flatbed semi trailer from Sparks or Reno. Have you done the environmental impact analysis on this “mitigation?” 

Third, the additional fluids (WHS-4) and wastewater (WHS-6) requirements are similarly unnecessary. I’ve built a number state-of-the-art “evapotron” towers to that eliminate about 200 gallons of greywater per week per tower, without leaking and without waste on the playa. Our evapotrons are regularly admired by the Earth Guardians. Consequently I’ve spent a lot of time over the years helping Burners capture, evaporate, and transport their greywater — and they’re pretty good at it. As a Burning Man greywater guru, I believe that your analysis is substantially in error.

To close, this Draft EIS seems to me a trumped-up list of invented problems. Burning Man has shown itself to be an extraordinarily good steward of public lands, bringing tens of thousands of people to a remote location, year after year, with an admirable health and safety record, while leaving no trace. The Draft EIS ignores this history. 

I look forward to receiving your plans for BLM Ranger retraining, an impact assessment of manufacturing and transporting 19 million pounds of steel and concrete, and an evidence-based, statistically rigorous analysis of the DEIS’s wastewater claims.