The challenges test the Biden administration's ability to straddle its promises to protect public lands while pushing aggressive clean energy goals like getting more electric cars on the road.
Granholm on Thursday said the administration wants find a way to achieve both aims.
“The administration wants to see mining happen in a responsible way in this country to be able to get the lithium, cobalt, the nickel that are necessary for battery production for electric vehicles," Granholm said. "It can be done in a way that respects Indigenous communities. It can be done in a way that respects the environment."
Granholm pointed to a project in California where an energy company is working to extract lithium from brine from the Salton Sea, an inland lake. She called the project “utterly sustainable” and “very exciting."
The two proposed Nevada projects are open pit mines, a different type of mining, but the Energy Secretary and former Michigan governor said Thursday that there's a “variety of types of mines” and “all of them could be sustainable.”
"It's just got to be done in the right way," she said.
Granholm also reaffirmed Biden’s commitment not to revive plans to create a national nuclear waste dump at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.
Most Nevadans are opposed to storing the nation’s radioactive waste at the site about 100 miles from Las Vegas. Nevada politicians, pitted against their counterparts in states that want to offload their nuclear waste, have fought for years to block the project.
Granholm said the Biden administration is working to find a place to store the waste where the surrounding community and state would be willing to take it on and receive compensation. She said the process will get underway this fall, but the government is already soliciting information from interested parties.
Granholm appeared at the North Las Vegas City Hall with Gov. Steve Sisolak and U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford.
She planned to visit a solar energy facility, tour a solar-powered home and meet with elected officials, community advocates and workers during her two-day visit wrapping up Friday.