EARTHWORKS

Mining Reforms, Ending Extraction Subsidies Key to Deficit Reduction

Lauren Pagel's avatar
By Lauren Pagel

October 13, 2011

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Graphic: Link Builder Cafe

Today, the Ranking Members of a variety of House Committees submitted their recommendations to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the Super Committee. The Super Committee is charged with finding $1 trillion in deficit reducing measures this fall, and these recommendations outline key steps that the Committee can take to reach that goal.

Reforming the antiquated Mining Law of 1872, creating a dedicated fund to clean up abandoned mines and reducing subsidies for the oil and gas industry are just a few of the money saving measures suggested by Congressman Ed Markey, the Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee. In addition to reducing our deficit and saving taxpayers money, these provisions provide important benefits to communities, public health, and the environment.

The 1872 Mining Law allows metal mining companies (both US and foreign-owned) to mine virtually anywhere on our Western public lands for free – with no return paid to the taxpayer. Charging hardrock mining companies a royalty for the gold, silver, copper and uranium they take form public lands could reduce our federal deficit by as much as $300 million a year. Congressman Markey recommends a royalty similar to what is paid by the oil and gas industry for their activities on our federal lands – 12.5%.

 Reforming our outdated mining law must be coupled with a small fee on the hardrock mining industry to clean up the hundreds of thousands of abandoned hardrock mines that litter the Western states. This recommendation would reduce the amount of money taxpayers now pay for abandoned mine clean up – which is nearly 100% of the current costs. Because there is no dedicated funding source for abandoned mines, taxpayers are currently on the hook for all of the $50 billion price tag. A dedicated abandoned mine land fund would raise about $200 million a year.

 In addition to these money saving mining reforms, Ranking Member Markey also recommends some changes for the oil and gas industry, including closing an offshore royalty relief loophole, increasing the royalties for oil and gas production on public lands and making sure that the industry pays for non-producing oil and gas leases. He also recommends ending subsidies for dirty energies like oil and gas, which would reduce our deficit by billions.

 If just the few recommendations I’ve mentioned in this blog were made a reality, we could reduce our deficit by $56 billion over the next 10 years, while cleaning up our waters and protecting the health of our communities. I hope the Committee makes these important recommendations a priority.

Tagged with: super committee, subsidies, oil and gas subsidies, mining reform, joint select committee on deficit reduction, deficit reduction, abandoned mines, 1872 mining law

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