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A week of attacks on communities and the environment

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.

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Tagged with: epa, bristol bay, oak flat, clean water act, grand canyon, anti-environmental riders


Gold statistics that might frustrate mining-impacted communities

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.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. production of gold in 2010 was 230 metric tons and global production was 2,500 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?

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Tagged with: dirty gold, usgs, world gold council, statistics


Abandoned mine cleanup: yes, but not if the cure is worse than the disease.

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).

An excerpt of my testimony is below.  You can read my full testimony here.  All testimony, and eventually video of the hearing, are available on the Subcommittee website.

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Protecting our forests, public lands from drilling

By Lauren Pagel

July 11, 2011

Today, a joint subcommittee oversight hearing entitled "Challenges facing Domestic Oil and Gas Development: Review of Bureau of Land Management/U.S. Forest Service Ban on Horizontal Drilling on Federal Lands" was held in the House of Representatives. Republican members challenged a proposed draft management plan for the George Washington National Forest to ban horizontal oil and gas drilling, as well as Bureau of Land Management efforts to regulate drilling on public lands. 

A recent study by the Forest Service details the serious impact that drilling can have forests including the destruction of trees and other fauna.  The report concludes: "Unexpected impacts, however, were perhaps more important, and because they could not be carefully controlled or planned for, are less likely to be mitigated successfully. It is obvious that unexpected, unpredicted events will occur during such activities, and therefore land managers should consider a wide range of possible effects when analyzing impacts on natural resources."

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Tagged with: oil and gas, natural gas, public lands, george washington national forest, house natural resources committee, virginia


Traffic cops wanted for a new beat: New York issues recommendations for drilling

By Nadia Steinzor

July 8, 2011

Usually when news and reports are issued just before a holiday weekend, they escape close scrutiny and media cycles. But a glaring exception to this rule occurred last week in Albany, NY, when the Department of Environmental Conservation made public highlights of the revised draft of its recommendations on addressing the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. (Officially known as the tongue-twisting Preliminary Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, or SGEIS.)

Cries of surprise and dismay echoed across the state as citizens and advocates realized that the DEC had just moved one big step closer to issuing permits for high-volume, horizontal fracking. For months, citizens and advocates had hoped that the DEC would defer its July 1 deadline and take more time to tackle the many thorny issues involved. But thanks to apparent pressure from Governor Cuomo and other forces, New York became just another state among many to extend a welcoming hand to industry.    

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Tagged with: fracking, hydraulic fracturing, marcellus shale, new york, state oil and gas regulations


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