Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee have both presented national conservation or wilderness area proposals to set aside large swaths of land, mainly in the West, from development.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on November 10 approved a package of 27 bills
which designate or expand the boundaries of wilderness areas, conservation areas, and protected rivers in several states.
Salazar issued a report
containing a preliminary list of areas largely managed by the Bureau of Land Management "that merit consideration by Congress for designation as national conservation areas or wilderness."
Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said, "The appropriate process for creating new wilderness areas on federal land is to petition Congress after the federal land management agencies have completed their land management plans and recommendations. If a proposal has the support of a state's congressional delegation, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will give it full and careful consideration. Some of the areas included in today's recommendation by the administration fall short of that mark," she added.
Congressional Rare Earth Caucus formed
In response to the ongoing and increasingly complicated developments surrounding rare earth minerals, Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO) has started a Congressional Rare Earth Caucus. The Caucus will be an informal bipartisan group of members of Congress dedicated to promoting education and awareness of, and solutions to, the issues and concerns related to rare earth minerals, including the areas of national security, resource development, economic security, trade matters, and renewable energy. Mr. Coffman is also a sponsor of H.R. 2011
, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2011, which would require the Secretary of the Interior to conduct an assessment of the capability of the Nation to meet current and future demands for rare earths and other minerals critical to U.S. manufacturing competitiveness and economic and national security in a time of expanding resource nationalism.
For more information, please refer to SME’s technical briefing paper
on rare earths, or go to www.smenet.org/gpac/
Pending: the Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act
On November 11, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) announced plans to introduce a new house bill, the Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act
, to prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from approving any new rules or regulations that could adversely impact employment in coal mines, cause a reduction in federal revenue from coal mining or diminish the ability of America to produce coal.
The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral resources has held numerous hearings on the Obama Administration’s proposed rewrite of the Stream Buffer Zone Rule.
House bill introduced to prohibit ban on uranium mining near Grand Canyon
On November 3, the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a legislative hearing on H.R. 3155
, the “Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011.” Introduced by Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ), H.R. 3155 would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from banning uranium mining on 1 million acres outside the borders of the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. On October 26, the Bureau of Land Management released a final environmental impact statement
, which would withdraw those lands from mining and exploration for 20 years.
House Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said, “In fact, it has been proven that allowing development of our domestic resources in this remote area would pose no threat to the park or water quality in the region. Furthermore, Secretary Salazar’s decision completely contradicts the Administration’s own energy efforts. Energy Secretary Chu has indicated that nuclear energy must be a part of our diverse energy portfolio, but you can’t have nuclear energy without uranium.” Mr. Bishop refers to an April 2011 letter
(pdf) written by the Arizona Geological Survey to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer with a report to reassure her that uranium mining near the Grand Canyon would be safe.
House and Senate release 2012 calendars
The current House schedule
(pdf) of spending two weeks in Washington, D.C. and one week in home districts will be continued in the second session of the 112th Congress, according to the 2012 schedule released by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). The schedule was originally crafted at the beginning of the GOP takeover of the House last year to let members spend longer stretches of time meeting face-to-face with their constituents. The House schedule sees the chamber in session for only six days in January and 109 days overall.
The House schedule has received its fair share of criticism, mostly from senators who are following the more traditional schedule
built around major holidays. The Senate schedule calls for four-week stretches between recesses, but is currently only sketched out through early September. The Senate will return to Washington from its December recess on Jan. 23, leaving only seven days of possible legislative business in January. For the first 36 weeks of the year, the chamber will be in session for only 22 weeks, or less than two-thirds of the time. Like the House, the Senate is likely to ease up on its activity during the fall of 2012 as the campaign season enters its final stretch.