Wednesday, January 23, 2008

American Rivers Update 1/24/08

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1) Senate Expected to Vote on Eightmile River Wild and Scenic Designation

Prior to breaking for the Christmas and New Years break, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) introduced S. 2483, the National Forests, Parks, Public Land, and Reclamation Projects Authorization Act of 2007. This legislation combines almost 60 bills for the Forest Service, Department of Interior, and the Department of Energy into one package that the Senate is expected to take up in the next couple weeks.

Included in this package are a number of water projects for the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Geological Survey as well as the designation of the Eightmile River in Connecticut as a National Wild and Scenic River. The House passed H.R. 986, the Eightmile River Wild and Scenic River Act, sponsored by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) last July after overcoming opposition from members outside the state of Connecticut. The Eightmile River is a Connecticut treasure that local communities have been trying to protect for almost a decade.

2) House Hearing on Great Lakes Restoration

This Wednesday, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment will hold a hearing to examine threats to water quality in the Great Lakes and discuss potential solutions to sewage overflow problems.

Shoreline communities along the Great Lakes dump some 24 billion gallons of raw sewage into the Great Lakes every year. Many towns have aging wastewater infrastructure that is deteriorating and can dump untreated sewage directly into local waterways when overwhelmed during rain events.

Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) has introduced H.R. 1350, the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, to implement a comprehensive strategy for restoring the Great Lakes that was formed by a collaboration of federal, state, local and tribal government officials and private sector stakeholders.

During Wednesday’s hearing the Committee will hear from members of Congress from Great Lakes states, representatives from the International Joint Commission of the U.S. and Canada, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Resources Conservation Service.

Hearing: The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will hold a hearing on Wednesday, January 23rd at 10:00 AM in 2167 Rayburn House Office Building.

3) Senate Hearing on 1872 Hardrock Mining Law Reform

This Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the 1872 Hardrock Mining Law.

The law in question is a relic from the days of pioneers and allows the sale of mineral rights on federal land for as little as $2.50 an acre and does not require mining companies to implement environmental protections nor pay federal royalties on the extraction of metals like gold and copper.

While there has been a temporary moratorium on these land purchases since 1994, hardrock mining companies still do not pay federal royalties, compared to oil, gas and coal industries that pay royalties of 8 to 16 percent. The federal government has not collected royalties on more than $245 billion worth of hardrock minerals extracted from public lands since the 1872 law was passed.

Hardrock mining companies have escaped accountability after their mines are closed resulting in approximately 38,500 abandoned mine sites on National Forest System lands and 65,000 on Bureau of Land Management lands; 10 percent of which may be releasing toxic heavy metals, acidity, and radioactivity into waterways across the West.

Last November, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) guided H.R. 2262, the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007, through the House where it passed by a vote of 244 to 166. This legislation would impose an 8 percent royalty on the gross returns of minerals from new claims and a 4 percent royalty on existing claims filed under the law.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the legislation would generate a total of $310 million over the 2009-2017 period. Two-thirds of these funds will go towards cleaning up abandoned mines. In addition the bill would end the sale of land at the 1872 prices and will give the federal government more control over where hardrock mining can take place.

Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Pete Domenici (R-NM), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee respectively, have said they will craft their own version of the bill.

Hearing: The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing on Thursday, January 24 at 9:30 AM in 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

4) Congressional Calendar

Wednesday January 23, 2008

Hearing on the details of a cap and trade system
House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
9:30 AM, 2128 Rayburn House Office Building

Hearing on Great Lakes water quality
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
9:30 AM, 2128 Rayburn House Office Building

Hearing on nuclear non-proliferation
House Committee on Energy and Commerce
10:00 AM, 2123 Rayburn House Office Building

Thursday January 24, 2008

Hearing on 1872 Hardrock Mining Law reform
Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
9:30 AM, 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Hearing on EPA’s California waiver decision
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
10:00 AM, 406 Dirksen Senate Office Building

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