Legislative and Regulatory Update
January 2021 by Scott Harn
• Biden’s incoming administration has green agenda
The Biden transition team continues to announce candidates for an incoming administration, and the focus is clearly on the promotion of a “green” agenda based on the picks announced so far.
Tom Vilsack served as former President Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture and will be asked to return to that position. Jennifer Granholm, who was the Governor and Attorney General of Michigan, will be nominated for Secretary of Energy.
Brenda Mallory of the Southern Environmental Law Center has been nominated to lead the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). She served as general counsel at CEQ during the Obama administration.
And while Neera Tanden has been nominated to lead the Office of Management and Budget, her nomination was immediately contested by members of both parties. Tanden is the current CEO of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank based in Washington, DC. The group has long been supported by big corporations such as Boeing, Lockheed, Comcast, Walmart and General Electric, while also courting solar and wind clients and promoting a “progressive policy agenda” according to their website, and a business contribution of $100,000 or more buys membership into their “Green Energy Economic Council.”
Michael Regan has been tapped to lead the EPA. He spent eight years at the Environmental Defense Fund—a group well-known for filing lawsuits against mining and energy projects and for additional listings under the Endangered Species Act—before he became the head of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality.
Deb Haaland will be nominated to lead the Department of Interior. Haaland has been a staunch supporter of the Green New Deal, which aims to switch all energy production to solar and wind power at the expense of oil and coal.
Each of these nominees will pose new challenges to miners and prospectors across the United States. It’s our job to remind them that continued reliance on China and other countries who are not our friends is not a viable plan going forward.
• Habitat definition finalized
The revised definition of “habitat” was finalized and published in the Federal Register on December 16, 2020, to comply with the US Supreme Court ruling in Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. FWS, 139 S. Ct. 361 (2018).
The revised definition appropriately prevents federal agencies from designating areas as “critical habitat” when those areas are not current habitat for an endangered or threatened species, are not physically adjacent to current habitat, or have not been habitat in the past.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) issued emergency rules without public comment just prior to our publication deadline.
• Big win by a California suction gold dredger
• Administration locks up another popular gold mining area
• BLM creates de facto wilderness without Congressional approval
• PLP continues the fight for miners' rights
• Oregon miners fight back
• Bills address strategic minerals
We have learned over the years, of course, that “previous development,” “roadless,” and “local support,” are in the mind of the beholder.
The current administration is receptive; we believe the time is ripe to push for a return to reasonable regulations and to restore mining to a priority for public lands as long as some new crisis doesn’t take precedent.
• Not so happy birthday
• Even more support for the PLP
As a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits, I’m not allowed to talk about specifics in the court-ordered negotiations currently underway in San Bernardino. However, I do want to let you know we are making progress…
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