Feds want $1M for staff compound at Burning Man

Feds want $1M for staff compound at Burning Man
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Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials wants Burning Man organizers to spend $1 million on a VIP compound at this year’s festival. 

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported Friday that federal officials have asked the festival to set up the compound — called the “Blue Pit” — complete with washers and dryers, hot water, air conditioning and couches for some of the 150 staffers who work the event each year. 

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Burning Man organizers are pushing back. A spokesman told the Gazette-Journal that “we’re getting close to the event, but we feel that there are more common-sense and cost-effective solutions” to providing accommodations for staffers.  

The request would add $1 million to the cost of hosting the festival, bringing total permitting fees to around $5 million. Current permits allow the festival, which will run from late August to early September, to host up to 70,000 visitors every year. Organizers have not received permits for this year's festival, though that's expected to happen in August.

In a Friday letter to Interior Secretary Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellOvernight Regulation: Senate panel approves driverless car bill | House bill to change joint-employer rule advances | Treasury to withdraw proposed estate tax rule | Feds delaying Obama methane leak rule Overnight Energy: Dems take on Trump's chemical safety pick GOP chairman probes Zinke’s charter plane use MORE, Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Republicans are headed for a disappointing end to their year in power Obama's HHS secretary could testify in Menendez trial MORE (D-Nev.) called the request “unprecedented and extravagant."

“Providing outlandishly unnecessary facilities for the BLM and its guests should be beyond the scope of the permitting requirements,” he said. “Part of Burning Man’s philosophy is self-reliance and living with the elements is part of the experience. Flush toilets and laundry facilities can be found about ten miles away in Gerlach, Nevada, if BLM’s employees need such amenities.”

BLM staff currently stay about 20 minutes from the festival, which is held annually in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Many of those who would use the compound would be state and federal officials focused on security and safety at the event. 

BLM officials and Burning Man organizers have tussled over the event for the past few months, even visiting Washington to discuss permitting and Burning Man’s hope to grow into a 100,000-person event.

Burning Man officials contacted Rep. Mark AmodeiMark Eugene AmodeiOvernight Finance: House passes .2T funding package for 2018 | FTC launches Equifax probe | Mnuchin defends honeymoon jet request | House scraps measure to boost credit union regulator oversight Trump’s EPA budget cuts hit strong opposition at House panel MORE’s (R-Nev.) office about the BLM’s compound request. An Amodei spokesman told the Gazette-Journal that “his first impression was, this is awful.” 

This story was updated at 5:10 p.m.