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US Senate Passes Critical Minerals and Public Lands Amendments in Pentagon Spending Bill

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By Aaron Mintzes

December 5, 2012

Amid much discord in the United States Congress related to all matters fiscal, occasionally there emerge rare moments of cooperation. The Department of Defense (DOD) budget requires reauthorization during the lame duck session providing an opportunity for the Senate to attach policy proposals that would not likely pass were they stand alone pieces of legislation. On the one hand, the Pentagon seems like an awkward place to advance social or environmental policy. But, because its budget is so large, some policy ideas get their first trial at DOD. The United States Senate unanimously passed a number of amendments to the DOD reauthorization bill related to critical minerals and public lands. Among them was a proposal by Senators Kyl, Risch, and Heller that urges the President to coordinate opportunities within a number of agencies to develop a sustainable supply of critical minerals. Helping ensure this supply is an amendment by Senators Casey and Begich that encourages DOD to recycle the rare earth elements found in the Department’s fluorescent light bulbs. Along the same lines, a number of Senators offered additional amendments concerning various forms of alternative and renewable energies the military should exploit.

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Tagged with: public lands, critical minerals, 112th congress, lame duck, defense authorization

SRBC Agrees to Comprehensive Study of Fracking

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By Aaron Mintzes

November 30, 2012

Over the last year or so we’ve worked with our friends at the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, Clean Water Action, Penn Environment, Sierra Club’s PA and MD chapters and other groups to urge the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) to amend its Comprehensive Plan to include a genuine cumulative impact study of hydraulic fracturing. It appears now that they will. While this is good news, no one is yet celebrating because we have a lot of details to iron out related to what the study should contain. The SRBC last amended their Plan in 2008. Back then, few folks anticipated the unprecedented spread of natural gas wells throughout Pennsylvania. The Keystone state has a very long history of drilling for oil and digging for coal. Yet the new technologies developed for high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing all over the region have left regulators without the tools they need to protect public health and water quality. It is for this reason that neighboring states Maryland and New York have chosen a much more deliberate approach.

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