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Legislative and Regulatory Update

Alaska Governor blasts state habitat division
The state habitat division of Alaska’s Fish and Game has a reputation of delaying and derailing major construction projects and a change is overdue, said Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski.

He announced plans to disband the division, and give its permitting duties to the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“I think we have seen in the habitat division the development of a ... reputation for delay, a reputation for inflexibility and an input of personal viewpoints,” Murkowski told reporters.

Murkowski said he plans to move the division director and 36 habitat employees to DNR and make staff cuts within the habitat division. Twenty-two habitat employees have received layoff notices.

Some habitat division staff will continue to perform research for proposed projects and will make recommendations to DNR, Murkowski said. The change will not change environmental requirements.

In defending his decision, Murkowski detailed several instances where projects have been delayed by the division and recounted allegations that habitat staff sponsored a pizza party to celebrate the closure of a pulp mill in the governor’s former hometown. He also said that industry no longer trusts the department.

Murkowski accused division staff of leaking information to the press and outside organizations and stalling projects by requiring endless studies.

“Unending demands for more studies have become a hallmark for the way this division often times does business,” Murkowski said.

Laws proposed and reviewed in Washington State
The Resources Coalition is making progress in the State of Washington. After a lengthy process of educating legislators, items being addressed include reclassifying some of the Gold & Fish violations from gross misdemeanors to infractions and making them civil (non-criminal) penalties, and the introduction of a bill that would make it a crime to harass or interfere with a miner or mining operation.

The Resources Coalition is addressing many issues. One of their next goals is to get the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to either justify or eliminate many of the Gold & Fish rules that do not appear to be based on sound science. As an example, the rules state that dredges must be spaced at least 200 feet apart, but they provide no justification for such a rule.

To support the Resources Coalition, contact Greg Christensen at (360)734-9495.

Comments needed on California’s arsenic goals
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) released their Public Health Goal (PHG) for standards pertaining to arsenic in drinking water on March 7, 2003. The PHG is for less than 4 parts per trillion (ppt), 2,500 times less than the new federal standards of 10 parts per billion that are scheduled to take effect in 2006.

The OEHHA states that 4 ppt was chosen because it would reduce cancer deaths associated to arsenic to less than 1 in 1 million for a person who drinks two liters of water every day for 70 years.

The OEHHA press release states, “Arsenic is found naturally in air, water, soil, mineral deposits, and food.”

This is true—arsenic does occur naturally in mineral deposits. Miners are already encountering difficulties from state and regional water quality boards because rainwater passing over exposed minerals becomes tainted with arsenic. The Sixteen to One Mine was recently ordered to treat rainwater as it passes through the mine to reduce the level of arsenic even though they are not using chemical processing at the mine. The new Public Health Goal could become another “tool” available to water boards to further restrict mining and many other businesses.

Printed copies of the draft technical support documents may be obtained for a fee from: Instant Copying and Laser Printing, 2015 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, California 94720; phone (510) 704-9700. The document may also be downloaded from the the OEHHA website ( A public hearing will be held on May 2, 2003 at 10 a.m. in the first-floor auditorium at 1515 Clay Street, Oakland, California. OEHHA will accept written comments on the draft document until May 2, 2003, which must be sent to: OEHHA’s Pesticide and Environmental Toxicology Section, 1515 Clay Street, 16th floor, Oakland, CA 94612.

New explosives requirements
Effective May 24, 2003, all purchasers and users of explosives will be required to have a permit or license, under the Safe Explosives Act of 2002. The law also requires any theft of explosives to be reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms within 24 hours, and this requirement is already in effect.

Aliens (with some exceptions), persons dishonorably discharged from US armed forces, and those who have renounced US citizenship are among the list of persons who will be prohibited from purchasing or possessing explosives. Fingerprints and photo identification will be required from those handling explosives, and also from company directors and senior management. Contact the National Explosives Licensing Center (NELC) at (404) 417-2750 for more details and a license application.

Bill introduced to curb ESA abuses
Senator Craig Thomas (R-Wyoming) introduced S369, a bill that would require scientific evidence that a species be threatened before it can be proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Under the current process, anyone can send in a request for a species listing with little justification.

S369 would establish minimum requirements for a listing petition that include an analysis of the status of the species, its range, population trends and threats, and sufficient biological information to support a recovery program.

These requirements would likely force environmental extremist organizations to allocate their time and money towards scientific studies, rather than to lawsuits and letter or email campaigns. Our public employees would be freed from dedicating a significant portion of time and taxpayer dollars to defending lawsuits.

Thomas’ legislation requires that each listing be supported by sound science and need. While recovery is the ultimate goal of the ESA, under current law it is virtually impossible to delist a species. There is no certainty in the process, and the state that has all the responsibility for managing the species once it is off the list is a not true partner in that process. Once the recovery plan is met, the species should be de-listed, according to Thomas.

Please contact your senator and show your support for S369.
© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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