Geoscience Policy Monthly Review
october 2013

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natural resources

House hearing on impacts of regulations on US mining

On October 10, The House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on what Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) called "abusive actions" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against U.S. mining operations, including EPA’s watershed assessment of Bristol Bay, Alaska. The goal of the hearing was to offer solutions to create jobs and grow the economy by bolstering America’s mining industry. Due to the government shutdown, no representatives from the EPA were able to attend.

The committee was divided: Republican members placed blame on the Obama administration for creating a “war on coal,” and Democratic members, conversely, focused on the need for increased regulation.

The committee heard mixed testimony from witnesses and no resolution was reached. Three of the four witnesses expressed their disapproval of the EPA’s regulations, with one witness even referring to the regulations as, “onerous federal regulations, and abusive actions.” On the other hand, a witness from the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation applauded the EPA’s regulation and assessment, stating that the EPA has been vital in sustaining the future of the Bristol Bay watershed. The mixed reviews from witnesses and split committee failed to find solutions on how to bolster the economy and increase mining jobs.

Sources: House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources

President signs helium bill

On October 2, following the government shutdown on October 1, President Obama signed H.R. 527, the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act, averting the shutdown of the federal helium reserve in Texas. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) federal helium reserve, which supplies the U.S. with 40 percent of its helium supply, was in danger of shutting down due to a lapse in funding.

H.R. 527 also provides $263 million for the Secure Rural Schools Program, $50 million for National Park infrastructure projects, $50 million for the remediation of abandoned oil and gas wells, and more.

Sources: E&E News, the Government Printing Office

Murkowski, Wyden introduce bipartisan critical minerals bill

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, along with 15 other senators have submitted the latest round of legislation outlining  a comprehensive minerals policy for the United States. The new bill, S.___ the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013, calls for the Department of the Interior to establish a list of critical minerals for the U.S. economy, increases international cooperation, creates a recycling program for critical minerals, and calls for research into potential substitutes. For more information on the bill, please click here.

Sources: The Government Printing Office, the U.S. Senate

New U.S.-Russia International Park sparks concerns

This October, the United States and Russia agreed to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding stewardship of the Bering Strait region. The two international superpowers hope to create an International Park connecting the Beringia National Park in Chukotka, Russia, with the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and the Cape Krusenstern National Monument on Alaska’s Seward Peninsula. However, Alaskans, including Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Representative Don Young (R-AK), are concerned that the agreement could negatively impact their constituents.

The deal, originally proposed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State at the time, Hillary Clinton, is intended to promote conservation and scientific research.

The MOU, however, has not been signed, and National Park Service (NPS) officials explain that there are no immediate plans to create an international park. For more information please visit the NPS website here.

Sources: E&E News, the National Park Service, the U.S. Senate