PLP Update: Another Suction Dredge Case Heading to the US Supreme Court
December 2019 by Scott Harn
As mentioned last issue, Public Lands for the People (PLP) has been assisting a member after the California Department of Fish & Wildlife attempted to expand its authority and cited a prospector for not having a stream alteration permit while drywashing. This case was postponed by the prosecution for another month after PLP offered to assist by providing expert testimony.
Two PLP board members will be attending the American Exploration and Mining Association tradeshow in Sparks, Nevada in December to garner support for providing regulatory relief for small-scale miners.
And, as we reported previously, PLP assisted suction gold dredger Don Smith of Idaho with a petition to the EPA requesting clarification of their dredge permit policy. The Clean Water Act clearly states there must be the “addition” of a pollutant to trigger a permit requirement, but the agency and those states handling permitting on the state level through a memorandum of understanding with the EPA have ignored this requirement. There were 26 groups who signed on to a letter of support for this clarification.
On a related note, miners in Oregon were facing similar issues in regards to suction gold dredge permitting, and they appealed their case, Eastern Oregon Mining Association v. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, to the Oregon Supreme Court. Unlike past suction dredging court cases, the “no addition” argument was thoroughly litigated. Unfortunately, the court ruled 6-1 against the miners, deferring to the agency interpretation.
I’ve had a few discussions with Tom Kitchar, president of the Waldo Mining District about this case. I’m happy to report that the Eastern Oregon Mining Association, the Waldo Mining District, and four individuals have signed an agreement with the Pacific Legal Foundation to appeal the “no addition” argument to the US Supreme Court! Pacific Legal Foundation has a stellar track record and does not take on cases unless it has a strong belief it can win. It is a huge boost to have attorneys with their knowledge and expertise take on this case.
We expect opening briefs to be filed in December. If the US Supreme Court accepts the case, we likely won’t see a ruling until late in 2020.
In the meantime, we will continue our multi-pronged approach to seek regulatory relief at the federal level while supporting those court cases that are built on a strong legal foundation. I expect my next trip to Washington, DC with PLP will take place in early 2020, where we will focus on getting the EPA clarification on suction dredge permitting, among other items.
...and don't miss the NEWS ALERT posted in our Recent News section!
• Some positives in spending bill
• Judge puts brakes on the EPA in Alaska
• Judge to rule in favor of suction gold dredgers
Federal and state regulatory agencies often cite mercury and methyl mercury in our waterways as a major factor for further restrictions on placer mining, and on suction gold dredge mining, in particular. However, these regulatory agencies are minimizing selenium and its neutralizing effects.
All of which brings us back to the question of why we rely so heavily on China in the first place. America’s economy is heavily dependent upon energy and telecommunications, but does that require Chinese manufacturing? Clearly not.
First, the US Forest Service does not have any authority to enforce or administer any “claim jumping” laws, period.
Republican legislators say the funding is necessary to protect state interests...
We're done watching as an unelected and unchecked bureaucracy, with rule-making authority, enforcement powers, and seemingly bottomless budgets abuses citizens at will.
The law is on our side, but we’ve seen some crazy rulings coming out of courtrooms lately. I believe Rinehart will win his case, but then we move on to the State Water Resources Control Board.
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