Budget cuts for everyone: except for mining industry subsidies?

January 26, 2011 • Lauren Pagel

Today, Senator Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Elimination of Double Subsidies for the Hardrock Mining Industry Act, which would save U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by eliminating an outrageous tax deduction for the mining industry. In an era of budget cuts and calls for increased fiscal responsibility to reduce the federal deficit, giving double subsidies to exceedingly profitable industries is a move in the wrong direction and Senator Shaheen s legislation would finally end this ridiculous corporate tax break.

When you think of mining in the United States, the last thing you probably think of is the tax code. But, a provision in the tax code accounts for one of the largest subsidies received by the mining industry each year. This subsidy has a name that only the IRS could come up with the Percentage Depletion Allowance.

The Percentage Depletion Allowance, or PDA, permits a mining company to deduct a set percentage amount of its gross annual income when calculating its federal income tax, based on the fact that the value of its assets (the minerals in the ground) decline as mineral production progresses.

The PDA applies nationwide to mining operations on private and public lands, and constitutes an exceptional tax break for U.S. mineral producers beyond those granted to other private industries.

House Democrats support disclosure on public lands

January 18, 2011 • Lauren Pagel

Yesterday, 46 Democrats from the House of Representatives sent a letter to Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that supports Interior s move towards public disclosure of fracturing chemicals for oil and gas operations on public lands. This letter stands in contrast to the 32 House members that signed a letter urging Interior to put off regulations until after the EPA hydraulic fracturing study has been completed.

As a first step in regulating what happens with oil and gas production on our public lands lands that are owned by you and me disclosure is a no-brainer, from my perspective. Regardless of what the findings of the EPA study might be, citizens deserve to know what chemicals are being by companies operating on lands that are part of our national heritage. 

I hope the Interior Department stays true to its mission to protect public lands and the waters contained within them and moves forward with strong disclosure provisions. In addition to disclosure of chemicals involved in hydraulic fracturing, the Interior Department should lead the way by instituting the most stringent regulations for the entire lifecycle of oil and gas production. DoI should require that companies operating on public lands adhere to best practices to protect air, land and water resources. 

A roadmap for EPA

December 1, 2010 • Lauren Pagel

As 2010 draws to a close, I ve been thinking a lot about the great work the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been doing to try and regulate extractive industries in this country to protect communities and the environment. With the study on the impacts that hydraulic fracturing has on drinking water, and their plans to regulate mercury emissions from mining operations under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is attempting to move this country towards better regulated extraction. There s still a long way to go, of course, but there is a lot that EPA can do to protect our water, air, land and public health in the coming months.

So, what can EPA do through the end of this year and into 2011 to continue this path toward better regulation?

Let s raise a glass of Drano to Chesapeake Energy s Aubrey McClendon!

November 20, 2010 • Lauren Pagel

This past Sunday, Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy, was interviewed on CBS 60 Minutes. 

Although he defended natural gas extraction, he also acknowledged that hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) a process that facilities the extraction of natural gas from over 90% of wells drilled in the United States injects the equivalent of Drano through the water table groundwater that provides drinking water for much of America.

Finally, a major energy industry CEO is admitting the truth that fracking chemicals are toxic, like Drano. 

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What President Obama should have said about natural gas.

November 5, 2010 • Lauren Pagel

In the aftermath of the election this week, President Obama made remarks that struck fear in the hearts of communities facing natural gas extraction in their backyards.

"We've got, I think, broad agreement that we've got terrific natural gas resources in this country. Are we doing everything we can to develop those?" was the question President Obama asked.

The question he SHOULD have been asking is (find out after the jump):

BLM outreach to mining claim holders on abandoned mines

October 7, 2010 • Lauren Pagel

Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began an outreach program to individuals or companies that have mining claims on public lands under the 1872 Mining Law. The goal of the outreach is to help the Bureau mitigate abandoned mine hazards.

Outreach to claimants is a laudable goal, and something the BLM should do more of. Unfortunately, regardless of how much outreach the BLM conducts, it will not change the fact that because of the antiquated 1872 Mining Law, there isn't enough money available to truly deal with our abandoned mine problem.

There are over a half a million abandoned mines in this country that could cost as much as $50 billion to clean up. Many of these abandoned mines pose serious public safety hazards, while others pollute streams and rivers. Yet, most years the BLM, Forest Service and National Park service spend less than $25 million on abandoned mine reclamation. EARTHWORKS helped to get some money in the 2009 stimulus bill for abandoned mine remediation, but nowhere near the $50 billion estimate.

Because the 1872 Mining Law allows mining companies to take valuable minerals like gold, copper and uranium from public lands for free, with no royalty or fee paid to the taxpayer, the abandoned mines that littler our public lands continue to pose threats to people and the environment.

We need to clean up old uranium messes, and make sure we have rules to prevent new ones, before we mine more uranium

September 24, 2010 • Lauren Pagel

Yesterday, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources conducted a hearing concerning H.R. 4817. The bill would amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977 and give uncertified States and Indian tribes authority to use payments to take care of certain noncoal (i.e. uranium) reclamation projects.

The House could learn a lesson if it passes the CLEAR Act

July 29, 2010 • Lauren Pagel

As soon as this Friday, the United States House of Representatives will vote on an oil spill response bill to reform offshore drilling practices. H.R. 3534, the Consolidated Land, Energy and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act, also contains a two new protections for onshore oil and gas drilling.

The disaster in the Gulf has shown that oil and gas operators need stringent regulations to ensure the environment is protected. The CLEAR Act addresses these problems by creating new safety standards, higher liability limits, and by closing the revolving door between government and the oil and gas industry.