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.
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.
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.
Earlier this week, Congressman Waxman, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sent letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Department of State Keystone XL Project Manager Elizabeth Orlando opposing the approval of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The State Department is charged with determining whether the pipeline is in the national interest and will issue, or not issue, a permit accordingly.
If built, the pipeline will transport tar sands oil from the Canadian tar sands in Alberta to oil refineries in the Gulf Coast. Tar sands oil is one of the dirtiest fuels out there -- emitting high volumes of greenhouse gases during development, which contribute to global warming.
In his letters to the State Department, Chairman Waxman stated that permitting the Keystone XL pipeline would be a step in the wrong direction , undermining President Obama s efforts to move this country away from oil and towards a clean energy economy. We applaud Chairman Waxman for his strong stance against increasing our reliance on dirty fuels and hope that other politicians will join him in opposing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Yesterday, Representative Arcuri of New York offered an amendment to the Oil Spill Accountability and Environmental Protection Act of 2010 to close a loophole that exempts the oil and gas construction activities from the storm water prevention permit requirement of the Clean Water Act. The amendment was approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and should head to the House floor sometime this month.
The successful repeal of this exemption will be the first in a long list of exemptions that must be repealed to make sure that oil and gas drilling is conducted in a safe, responsible manner than protects communities and the environment.
Oil and gas production is still exempt from the storm water portion of the Clean Water Act. And all of you have heard about the absurd exemption that hydraulic fracturing has from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Oil and gas producers are also exemption from our hazardous waste law (RCRA), the federal law designed to clean up sites contaminated by hazardous waste (also known as Superfund), the National Environmental Policy Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (which requires companies to report their toxic releases), and part of the Clean Air Act.
Today, Congressman Rahall, the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, unveiled a comprehensive bill to strengthen environmental and safety rules for oil and gas drillers on publicly managed minerals both onshore and offshore.
In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it s nice to see that lawmakers are appropriately coming to the conclusion that fossil fuel extraction needs to occur in ways that protect communities, clean water and public health.
The issue of hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells is at the forefront of the Safe Drinking Water Act reauthorization bill, which is being debated in the House Energy and Commerce Committee this morning. EARTHWORKS, along with our partners, is urging members of the Committee to support an amendment that may be offered by Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) that would require natural gas producers to disclose the chemicals used in during the process of hydraulic fracturing.
Disclosure of chemicals used in this process is the first step on the road to protecting public health and drinking water in the 34 states that are impacted by oil and gas drilling. EARTHWORKS also supports the passage of the FRAC Act (S. 1215 and H.R. 2677), which would close the current loophole that exempts hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
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