By Lauren Pagel
July 20, 2011
Each year, lawmakers must pass 12 spending bills to fund the government. And each year, some lawmakers use these spending bills to push through anti-environmental provisions that have nothing to do with funding the government. These provisions, called "riders" because of the way they ride along on unrelated must-pass legislation, are usually terrible policies that lawmakers know they wouldn't be able to move through Congress as part of the regular legislative process.
The spending bills that are currently moving through the House of Representatives contain the most anti-environmental riders of any year that I can recall in my decade-long career in DC. If they become law, these policy riders would decimate some of our most basic environmental protections. Clean air, clean water and our most treasured places are under threat.
July 16, 2011
When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett appointed the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission in March, the short study time allotted (120 days) and the fait accompli nature of its mission to guide the responsible development of natural gas due to its presumed economic benefits raised alarm bells. Many even wondered whether the final report was already written.
Today this suspicion seemed to be well-founded as the Commission hurriedly voted on a series of recommendations. Because the actual text of these presumably draft proposals were kept from the public and the media, their full content and context were visible only to the players at the Commission table.
By Lauren Pagel
July 15, 2011
This week, the House of Representatives launched at all out attack on communities and the environment. In vote after vote, they chose the profits of businesses over the health of our water and air.
On Tuesday, the spending bill for agencies like the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency was voted out of committee. This bill contains nearly too many anti-environmental amendments to count amendments that have nothing to do with appropriating spending for government agencies.
There are three amendments that those of us here at Earthworks are particularly concerned about. One is an amendment that would prohibit the Department of the Interior from withdrawing the lands around the Grand Canyon from mining. The second is an amendment that would stop the EPA from issuing rules to expand the definition of waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act -- a rule that is badly needed to protect ephemeral streams from mining waste and other pollution. And last, but not least, an amendment that would prohibit the EPA from requiring important financial assurances for hardrock mines to ensure that mining companies, not taxpayers, clean up the mess after a mine shuts down.
By Alan Septoff
July 15, 2011
The World Gold Council keeps a set of gold statistics. Among them, how much gold every country in the word keeps in its reserve banks.
According to the WGC (actually originally sourced from the IMF), the largest holder of gold is the U.S. with 8,100 metric tons of gold. The world, collectively, holds more than 30,000 metric tons.
In other words, there is enough gold sitting in just U.S. banks to replaced the annual mined supply for 3 years. And enough in the world to replace mined gold for more than 10 years.
I wonder what the communities fighting for to protect their communities from unwanted gold mining in Rosia Montana (Romania) or the Wassa district (Ghana) or Yanachocha/Cajamarca (Peru) think of this?
By Lauren Pagel
July 14, 2011
Today, I testified before the House Natural Resources' Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals.
The hearing title: Abandoned Mined Lands: Innovative Solutions for Restoring the Environment, Improving Safety and Creating Jobs.
In this case, "restoring the environment, improving safety and creating jobs" are issues all stakeholders can agree are desirable, at least in the abstract. What counts as "innovative", however, is at issue.
We can see where some very limited exemptions from Clean Water Act liability would encourage abandoned mine cleanup. Some in industry, and their advocates in Congress, apparently want to use abandoned mine cleanup as an excuse for wholesale exemptions to environmental liability of any sort.
Our fear is that, with broader liability exemptions, major mining companies will replace one problem (an old abandoned mine) with an even bigger one (a modern open-pit mine).