Legislation & Regulation

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Legislative and Regulatory Update

October 2016 by Scott

We hope all of you are taking the time to research the candidates running in local, state and federal elections. It’s fairly easy these days to look up a candidate on the Internet and view their positions on all the major issues, including public land use.
The recent releases of hacked emails from public officials have provided with some entertaining reading. They have revealed that many of our elected and appointed leaders really don’t like each other, and that what they say or do in public may be completely opposite of what they say or do in private. They’re also a confirmation of sorts—there is no amount of money that would convince me to run for president!
But we do have an obligation. Do your homework, and when November rolls around, please get out and vote.
EPA declares Superfund site in Colorado
As expected, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added the inactive Gold King Mine in Colorado to their Superfund National Priorities List on September 7, 2016.
The announcement came a little more than one year after the agency itself created a massive spill at the Gold King Mine by excavating near the adit of the abandoned mine, unleashing three million gallons of contaminated wastewater into rivers that supply water to four states.
The EPA had been pushing for a Superfund listing for years but faced opposition from local officials; the spill conveniently gave them an opening. 
Locals had been forewarned by one of our subscribers, retired geologist Dave Taylor, in a letter published in the Silverton Standard a week prior to the spill. Here’s an excerpt:
Based on my 47 years experience as a professional geologist, it appears to me that the EPA is setting your town and the area up for a possible Superfund blitzkrieg.
Reading between the lines, I believe that has been EPA’s plan all along. The proposed Red & Bonita plugging plan has been their way of getting a foot in the door to justify their hidden agenda for construction of a treatment plant.
After all, with a budget of $8.2 billion and 17,000 employees, the EPA needs new, big projects to feed the beast and justify their existence.
I would recommend that anyone who owns a home, property water well or spring in the Cement Creek drainage take water samples ASAP to protect themselves from groundwater changes that may be caused by the EPA plugging operation.
The Superfund designation names the Bonita Peak Mining District, a district that has been inactive for years.
It’s not a coincidence they included the name of the Mining District in light of all the work we’ve been doing to get the districts organized if they are in disarray. Thaddeus Lightfoot, an environmental attorney, stopped by the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council booth at an outdoor tradeshow in Colorado earlier this year and seemed quite interested in the subject of Mining Districts. He’s been one of the advocates for the Superfund designation and was quoted in several articles after the EPA Superfund designation was announced. The mentioning of the Mining District may be an attempt to intimidate organized Mining Districts from actively participating in the regulatory process. However, the EPA can only look in the mirror if trying to cast blame in this case. 
An environmental tale
Once upon a time there were three little frogs. Their “homes” were being destroyed by the big bad wolf. 
If you don’t dig into the details, you might assume the “wolf” in this story is the miners, ranchers and other public land users, along with rural development.
The US Fish & Wildlife Service felt these little amphibians needed some “bricks” to protect their homes, and on August 25, 2016, they published a notice in the Federal Register on their decision to set aside 1,812,164 acres in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California as critical habitat.
The agency’s news release stated they worked “diligently with our partners” to create this critical habitat, but neglected to mention in the release how they are going to address the true big bad wolf. If you do a simple Google search, you’ll find, as of 2011, there were 54 published studies linking the decline of frog and toad populations to the introduction of trout and other predator fish. The majority of these fish were stocked in California mountain lakes and streams by—you guessed right—the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the same agency that determined the frogs are worthy of a critical habitat designation.
I’ve read some of the comments public land users have been posting on the Internet. Many people are upset, and rightly so. However, there is no need to panic—there is a solution.
As we have reported many times in recent issues of the Mining Journal, get your traditional Mining District organized if it is in disarray. The Minerals and Mining Advisory Council (MMAC) is staffed by a group of dedicated miners who will guide claimholders through the process so the Mining District can obtain federal recognition. 
Mining Districts have been in existence since the mid-1800s and a traditional Mining District causes a jurisdictional problem for the agencies. A federally recognized Mining District can provide relief in this situation if operated correctly, and this type of obstacle has already been successfully addressed by the Rand Mining District in southern California through the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding with federal agencies. And when the Mining District provides this type of regulatory relief, all public land users benefit. 
Writing letters and participating in public comment sessions is no stronger than straw if that’s the only item you use to build your house. You have your very own pile of bricks at your disposal, and MMAC is standing by with the mortar to help you build a firm structure that can’t be blown over. (Contact information for MMAC is available at mmacusa.org.)

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