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Meet the anti-government conspiracy theorist behind GOP environmental policy

illuminati is real
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When state Sen. Jennifer Fielder, vice-chair of the Montana Republican Party, needed an expert on natural resources to testify before the state’s Environmental Quality Council earlier this year, she turned to Doyel Shamley.

An Army veteran and president of a Nevada-based firm called Veritas Research Consulting, Shamley took the trip to Montana as only the latest in a long line of appearances as an expert witness on land management. There he was at a county board of supervisors in the Sierras, on behalf of the California Association of Business, Property, and Resource Owners. And before the Arizona Senate. And in Northern California, alongside a local sheriff. And in southern Arizona, at an event sponsored by the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a leading conservative group backed by the Koch brothers. And Kingman, Ariz., discussing wolves. In 2012, at the invitation of Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), he testified at field hearing for the House Committee on Natural Resources. On his website, he lists four current Republican members of congress -- Reps. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), and Gosar -- as "clients."

But his interest in the federal government goes far deeper than water rights and wildfire prevention. By day, Shamley is a consultant and natural resources coordinator for Arizona's Apache County. But by night, he's a conspiracy theorist who until recently hosted an online radio show called The Hour of the Time, during which he speculates that UFO sightings are a false-flag operation by the Illuminati to accumulate more power, and federal agents killed his friend because he was asking questions about the attacks on the World Trade Center.

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Watch this video of Louisiana’s 24-acre sinkhole swallowing a grove of trees

You won't believe your eyes.
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You won't believe your eyes.

For the current issue of Mother Jones, I wrote about the Bayou Corne sinkhole, a swampy, reeking, 24-acre hole in the earth that opened up near the site of an abandoned salt cavern in rural Assumption Parish, La. After the sinkhole first appeared (at about 1/24th of its current size) last August, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) ordered the 350 residents of Bayou Corne to evacuate. On Aug. 2, Louisiana sued Texas Brine, the company that mined the salt cavern that experts have identified as the trigger for the sinkhole. Every few weeks the sinkhole burps -- this is really the term the geologists use -- and somewhere between 20 and 100 barrels of sweet crude bubble up to the surface. Really, it's best explained in the piece.

I saw a lot of strange things in Louisiana, but on Wednesday, Assumption Parish emergency response office, which continuously monitors the sinkhole for burps and seismic activity, released perhaps the strangest video I've seen yet. It's an entire grove of trees simply being swallowed up by the sinkhole -- something that was known to happen but no one had managed to capture clearly on camera.

Watch:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Meet the town that’s being swallowed by a sinkhole

About once a month, the residents of Bayou Corne, La., meet at the Assumption Parish library in the early evening to talk about the hole in their lives. "It was just like going through cancer all over again," says one. "You fight and you fight and you fight and you think, 'Doggone it, I've beaten this thing,' and then it's back." Another spent last Thanksgiving at a 24-hour washateria because she and her disabled husband had nowhere else to go. As the box of tissues circulates, a third woman confesses that after 20 years of sobriety she recently testified at a public meeting under the influence.

"The God of my understanding says, 'As you sow, so shall you reap,'" says Kenny Simoneaux, a balding man in a Harley-Davidson T-shirt. He has instructed his grandchildren to lock up the ammunition. "I'm so goddamn mad I could kill somebody."

But the support group isn't for addiction, PTSD, or cancer, though all of these maladies are present. The hole in their lives is a literal one. One night in August 2012, after months of unexplained seismic activity and mysterious bubbling on the bayou, a sinkhole opened up on a plot of land leased by the petrochemical company Texas Brine, forcing an immediate evacuation of Bayou Corne's 350 residents -- an exodus that still has no end in sight. Last week, Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the company and the principal landowner, Occidental Chemical Corporation, for damages stemming from the cavern collapse.