Legislative and Regulatory Update
March 2014 by Scott Harn• Idaho challenges EPA regulations
How about some good news for a change?
Suction gold dredgers in Idaho were upset with EPA’s recent decision to require a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).
The EPA required the permit despite a 2013 US Supreme Court ruling that “moving polluted water between two parts of the same water body does not constitute a discharge of pollutants” under the Clean Water Act (Natural Resources Defense Council v. Los Angeles County Flood Control District).
Dredgers took their complaints to their legislators, and the result was a February 3, 2014 hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Resources and Environment and the House Committee on Resources and Conservation. The main speakers were all in favor of eliminating the NPDES requirement, and included retired US EPA scientist Joe Greene, Waldo Mining District (Oregon) President Tom Kitchar, Idaho County Sheriff Doug Giddings, and Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik. (Click on the “Resources” tab at www.icmj.com and then on “Videos” to view the hearing.)
On February 6, Representative Paul Shepherd and others sponsored H 0473, an emergency bill that would declare EPA regulations “null and void” in the state. The bill’s stated purpose is “to protect citizens of Idaho from EPA regulations that are not authorized by the Constitution of the United States and violate the Constitution’s true meaning of intent.”
At press time, the bill had passed out of the House State Affairs Committee and was scheduled for a full hearing.
• California suction gold dredging
The consolidated court cases challenging the State of California’s moratorium on suction gold dredging is scheduled for May 1, 2014, at Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court, 8303 Haven Ave, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730. The hearing will begin at 8:30am. Miners are encouraged to attend to show their support!
Another challenge mounted by suction dredge miner Brandon Rinehart, who was cited for dredging without a permit, will be heard by the California Court of Appeals.
Rinehart was cited for not obtaining a permit that was impossible to obtain due to the current suction dredging moratorium in the state.
Rinehart is being represented by attorney James Buchal, and the Pacific Legal Foundation has filed an amicus brief.
We’ll keep you posted as these cases progress.
Meanwhile, we concluded our recent fundraiser for Public Lands for the People to help pay for the ongoing litigation. New or renewing subscribers could join PLP for a reduced price of $25—and ICMJ’s Prospecting and Mining Journal chipped in the additional $10 for a one-year PLP membership.
We want to thank the following additional subscribers who jumped in to help fund the fight:
Paul Vanslyke—West Jordan, UT
Brian Skinner—Preston, ID
Clem Monday—Oroville, CA
Andy Harrild—Bend, OR
Betty & Phil Leas—Weed, CA
Russ Riddle—Sidney, OH
Will Moss—Irvine, CA
Fred Bartow—Vancouver, WA
Stephen Miller—Salmon, ID
Gary Heglund—Salem, OR
William Kirnberger—Lakehead, CA
James Shumate—El Dorado, CA
John Calvert—Yucca Valley, CA
All told, 140 subscribers joined Public Lands for the People and contributed $4,373.65, while ICMJ’s Prospecting and Mining Journal added another $1,400 for a total of $5,775.65. Thank you for your support!
- Administration issues proposals to fix mining access and permitting
- Online “webinar” and request for comments for proposed Forest Service NEPA revisions
A two-pronged approach is necessary to restore suction dredging; federal preemption needs to be established as addressed above via petition; and clarification from the EPA is needed to establish that no Section 402 permit is necessary when there is no “addition” of a pollutant.
Mining Districts are the private regulatory authority granted by Congress recognized to regulate the mineral lands held by the United States and for the disposal to citizens of the United States, by means of development and potentially perfected by patent.
Rather than using the practice of government seizure of private property to promote economic development, the county is using it to preserve open space.
Since 2005, a group representing a handful of Oregon and Washington mining organizations, centered around the Eastern Oregon Mining Association (EOMA) and the Waldo Mining District (WMD), have been actively fighting the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) over their then new “700PM Suction Dredge Mining Permit.”
One caller wondered why he should be required to join MMAC, asked why MMAC was not a non-profit, and compared it to some kind of extortion attempt. If he had questions like these, I assume there are others with similar questions and I will address them here.
Judge Ochoa went so far as to call the California permit scheme “unenforceable.”
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