I wrote earlier this week that Oak Flat and Apache Leap had been successfully defended from a land swap that would have seen this publicly-owned special place (places, really) transferred into the hands of the Resolution Copper partnership so that it could be mined.
Well, that wasn't the end of the story.
The land swap was resurrected when Senator Reid put it on the unanimous consent calendar packaged with a bunch of other public land initiatives. [You might be thinking: "but nothing in the Senate gets unanimous consent!?" Well, you'd be wrong -- there's actually bunches of things passed by "UC".]
This past Wednesday, Newmont Mining announced the purchase of 18.59% of shares of Loncor Resources, a Canadian company exploring for minerals in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The Loncor concessions include sites in Orientale and in North Kivu, a zone often known for conflict.
Also on Wednesday, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released draft regulations on importation of conflict minerals from the Congo Basin. Those regulations, as well as regulations on transparency of mining company payments to foreign governments and safety of mines, are some of the implementing regulations for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Three weeks before Christmas, the U.S. EPA issued an emergency order to protect families in southern Parker County, Texas, west of Fort Worth in the Barnett Shale gas field. Two residents living near gas wells had flammable, fizzy and bubbling water (video) and EPA testing determined that nearby Range Resources wells had either caused or contributed to the contamination. The order said: EPA testing has confirmed that extremely high levels of methane in their water pose an imminent and substantial risk of explosion or fire.
For four months prior, the Texas Railroad Commission knew of the situation but hemmed and hawed, testing and retesting but failing to take any action. Yet when EPA stepped in, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones called the action premature. Commissioner Michael Williams said EPA s action was nothing more than grandstanding in an effort to interject the federal government into Texas business. Only in Texas where citizens are held prisoners to the cry of states rights by our Kabuki governor who regularly demonizes the EPA and who never met a polluter he didn t like could an action to protect citizens be called political grandstanding by a professional political grandstander.
The EPA s action is generating much scurrying about by industry and industry apologists looking for anything to blame -- anything, that is, but drilling and fracking. Their quest for a scapegoat is producing some useful information.
Good news! Despite being included in an earlier draft of omnibus public lands legislation, the version actually introduced for debate did NOT include the poison pill land exchange.
Thanks to everyone who sent letters in to their Senators.
For those reading about this for the first time: Resolution Copper (a partnership of two of the world's largest multinational mining companies) wants to mine copper on publicly-owned land sacred to the Apache, and land specifically protected for recreation (Oak Flat campground) in Arizona.
Because this land is owned by all Americans, and mining it would destroy the campground and surrounding area, these multinationals need an act of Congress in order to acquire the land. Although they've been trying for years, they've been unsuccessful so far. And are still -- thanks again to people who made their voice heard.
And thanks to the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition for keeping up the fight.
For More Information:
President Obama stated yesterday that the US now "supports" the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. US support is no trivial change in policy, since the US was the last of the original four countries to not endorse it when the UN General Assembly passed the Declaration in September 2007.
But when you read the fine print, that support has some important caveats. So what does it mean for Indigenous communities affected by mining?
What US support for the Declaration should mean is that the US should ensure that its policies, and the implementation of its policies, conform with all the stipulations in the Declaration. Consequently, companies should not be able to impose mining projects on Indigenous communities that do not want them. This should apply to any mining operations over which the US has jurisdiction -- mining activities in the US, and companies based in the US or listed on the stock exchange in the US.
As 2010 draws to a close, I ve been thinking a lot about the great work the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been doing to try and regulate extractive industries in this country to protect communities and the environment. With the study on the impacts that hydraulic fracturing has on drinking water, and their plans to regulate mercury emissions from mining operations under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is attempting to move this country towards better regulated extraction. There s still a long way to go, of course, but there is a lot that EPA can do to protect our water, air, land and public health in the coming months.
So, what can EPA do through the end of this year and into 2011 to continue this path toward better regulation?
Yesterday, the New York State Assembly reconvened in Albany and ended up working late into the night to debate and vote on a time out for gas development. The bill (A. 11443B, sponsored by Assembly Member Robert Sweeney) passed by a wide 93-43 margin and suspends the issuance of permits to hydraulically fracture gas wells in New York State until May 15, 2011.
With a companion bill already passed by the State Senate in August, the moratorium will become law once it s signed by Governor David Paterson, who stated last week that Even with the tremendous revenues that will come in we re not going to risk public safety or water quality, which will be the next emerging global problem after the energy shortage.
The Assembly vote was the culmination of months of hard work by organizations, citizen activists, and forward-looking legislators from across New York. A broad coalition of groups heralded the news as an opportunity to closely examine the true costs of shale gas development that have plagued communities in other states before permits are issued.