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Key Events

Key events

General Topic Areas

Global warming
Wildlife protection
Corporate welfare
Public health
Air pollution
Public land use
National Parks
Corruption
Wetlands
Water pollution
Environmental enforcement
Outsourcing and privatization
Politicization and deception
Superfund sites and clean-up
Toxic waste
Shorelines and oceans
Endangered species
Appointments and resignations

Corporate Interests

Automobile industry
Coal Industry
Timber industry
Agribusiness
Oil and gas industry
Energy industry
Snowmobile Industry
Mining industry
Cattle Industry

Specific Pollutants

Mercury
Methyl Bromide
MTBE
Formaldehyde
Atrazine
Lead

Specific Issues and Cases

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations
Clear Skies
Round Up power plant
Outsourcing CAT
New Source Review
Klamath Basin Fish Kill
Formaldehyde Rule
Mining in the Cabinet Mountains
Roadless Rule
Mountaintop Mining
Snowmobile regulation
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The Bush administration's environmental record: Mining industry

 
  

Project: The Bush administration's environmental record

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January 10, 2003

       The Bush administration announces a policy directive and proposed rulemaking that would significantly restrict the scope of the Clean Water Act, removing as much as 20 percent, or 20 million acres, of the country's wetlands from federal jurisdiction. Officials claim the measures are necessary in order to comply with a 2001 Supreme Court decision that the US Army Corps of Engineers does not have the authority to regulate intrastate, isolated, non-navigable ponds solely on the basis that they are used by migratory birds. But the proposed rule and policy directive ignores a decision by the Department of Justice that the court's ruling does not necessitate modifying the scope of the Clean Water Act. The administration's directive and proposed rule interpret the 2001 decision to mean that all “isolated” intrastate, non-navigable waters are outside the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. [Environmental Protection Agency, 1/10/2003; New York Times, 1/10/2003; New York Times, 1/11/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Natural Resources Defense Council, 1/10/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003; Earthjustice, et al., 8/2004 Sources: Federal Register, Vol 68., No. 4] Whereas the proposed rule must go through a lengthy federal process before going into effect, the policy directive is enacted immediately. The directive instructs regional offices of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to halt protection of wetlands unless (1) the waterway lies adjacent to navigable rivers, streams and their tributaries or (2) the EPA's headquarters in Washington has granted explicit approval to exercise regulatory authority. No approval however is required for the commencement of activities that could potentially pollute these waters. As a result of this directive, thousands of acres of wetlands, small streams, and other waters instantly lose federal protection. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003; New York Times, 1/10/2003; Earthjustice, et al., 8/2004] The proposed rule will generate an immense public outcry. Ninety-nine percent of the 135,000 comments submitted to the EPA and Army Corps on this proposal will be opposed to it. Comments supporting the proposed rule will come from the National Mining Association, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, National Association of Home Builders, and other industry groups. Additionally, environmental and natural resource government agencies from 39 states, including 17 with Republican governors, will oppose the plan, while agencies from only three states will support it. Numerous local government entities, scientific groups, as well as a bi-partisan group of 219 representatives and twenty-six senators, will also come out against the proposal. [Earthjustice, et al., 8/2004; Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003]
People and organizations involved: US Army Corps of Engineers, Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency  Additional Info 
          

April 11, 2003

       The Department of Interior informs Congress that it has decided to settle a lawsuit filed years ago by the state of Utah over the Bureau of Land Management's policy of rejecting drilling and mining projects in areas under review for wilderness protection. The decision withdraws protected status for 3 million acres of land in Utah. Without designation as a Wilderness Area, portions of the Red Rock Canyons in southern Utah could be open to logging, oil and gas drilling, mineral extraction, road-building and other development. A federal appeals court had previously ruled against the state on all but one count and consequently the lawsuit's status had been moribund since 1998. [USA Today, 4/11/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] But in March, Utah made an amendment to its complaint, thus reopening the case and providing the Bush administration with an opportunity to make a “settlement.” Environmental groups say the settlement is the outcome of a deal made between Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Utah Governor Mike Leavitt behind closed-doors. [USA Today, 4/11/2003; Salt Lake City Tribune, 4/20/2003; The Wilderness Society, 4/28/2004; Salt Lake City Tribune, 5/6/2003; Salt Lake City Tribune, 6/18/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] In addition to the settlement, the Bush administration stops congressional reviews of Western lands for wilderness protection, capping wilderness designation at 22.8 million acres nationwide. [USA Today, 4/11/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Mike Leavitt, Gale A. Norton, US Department of Interior, Bush administration
          

May 13, 2003

       The US Fish and Wildlife Service revises a Clinton-era judgment which had concluded that the proposed construction and operation of two mines in the Cabinet Mountains of Montana would likely have an adverse impact on the local population of grizzly bears. In January 2002, twelve months after the Bush administration came into office, the mining companies filed a lawsuit protesting this judgment. The US Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to reconsider the case reasoning that it needed to “make sure that it [had been] based on the best available science.” Some time after the decision was made to reconsider the case, one of the mining companies abandoned its permit. The Fish and Wildlife Service, in its new judgment, concludes that the operation of one mine would not threaten the area's grizzly bears. [Fish and Wild Service, 5/13/2003; Earth Justice, 1/29/2002; Missoulian, 5/14/2003] The proposed Rock Creek Mine, a copper and silver mine, would be the first large-scale mining operation to take place in a wilderness area. It would remove up to 10,000 tons of materials each day for up to 35 years. Critics argue that traffic brought by the mine and its accompanying roads would harm the local populations of grizzlies and bull trout and contaminate the surrounding watershed. [Fish and Wild Service, 5/13/2003; The Washington Post, 5/18/2003; Missoulian, 5/14/2003; Clark Fork Coalition website] The company that would operate the mine, Sterling Corporation, and its executives have a poor business and environmental record. [Mattera and Khan, 1/2003; Clark Fork Coalition website]
People and organizations involved: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Sterling Corporation, Bush administration
          

October 8, 2003

       Interior Secretary Gale Norton signs a legal opinion by Deputy Solicitor Roderick Walston reversing the interpretation of the agency's previous solicitor-general, John Leshy, who had ruled in 1996 that the 1872 Mining Law limits each 20-acre mining claim on federal land to a single five-acre waste site. As a result of Norton's decision, mining companies will be permitted to dump unlimited amounts of toxic waste on public lands, threatening surrounding waterways, wildlife, and the health of local human populations. The Bush administration and the mining industry have argued that the Clinton-era opinion caused a significant reduction in US minerals exploration, mine development and mining jobs since 1997. “It created an atmosphere of uncertainty and when you are making investments of hundreds of millions of dollars, uncertainty is not something you want to face,” explains Assistant Interior Secretary Rebecca Watson. “We anticipate we will now see more development and exploration for mining.” The decision was praised by the mining industry. “This is good news,” Russ Fields, executive director of the Nevada Mining Association. “The old opinion did create a lot of uncertainty for our industry.” [Associated Press, 10/10/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Gale A. Norton, Bush administration, Roderick Walston, John Leshy
          


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