The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has increased location and maintenance fees for mining claims on federal lands. The new location fee is $40, and the new maintenance fee is $165 per lode mining claim or site and $165 for each 20 acres or portion thereof for placer mining claims. The due date for all
On Wednesday the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will auction helium stored in its Cliffside Field underground storage facility in west Texas (aka the Federal Helium Reserve). This annual auction under the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013 is part of a privatization effort that began back in 1996 and will culminate with the BLM divesting itself of that facility by 2021. At the same time, concerns about helium supply are again rising, as production from Qatar, which accounts for 25% of global helium supply, was interrupted last month by an economic boycott in the region. These events are prompting Congress to consider changing the nearly century-old treatment of helium under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920.
Continue Reading Reconsidering Helium Production on Federal Lands Amid Privatization of Federal Helium Reserve
On June 28, 2017, the Senate introduced a bill that aims to revitalize and overhaul various federal energy and natural resources policies. Senate Bill 1460 (S.1460), sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Arkansas) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), broadly proposes reform of United States policies on topics such as energy efficiency, supply and conservation. A key highlight of S.1460 is modernization of the electric grid, an issue that has often been touted as a national security concern. Further, on the conservation side, the bill would establish a National Park Maintenance and Revitalization Fund. While details of the bill are still forthcoming, the bill’s authors state that S.1460 will lay out a plan to strengthen the nation’s energy infrastructure.
Continue Reading Senate Proposes Legislation to Modernize Federal Energy Policies
On Monday Governor Inslee signed SB 5470, which the legislature unanimously passed to streamline Department of Natural Resources (DNR) permitting for drilling core holes used to gather geothermal data. Before SB 5470, each core hole required a separate permit, and if a core hole penetrated more than 750 feet into bedrock or geothermal energy…
Both houses of the Idaho Legislature unanimously approved House Bill 301a last week following a seven-hour negotiation and two days of hearings earlier this month. Supported by Governor Otter, this bill will (among other things) amend the forced pooling provisions enacted just 12 months ago. In fact, House Bill 301a is the latest in a series of legislative actions taken since exploration and development operations commenced in western Idaho in 2010. The Idaho Department of Lands’ website shows nine producing wells plus six shut-in wells as of last month.
Changes to Idaho’s current oil and gas statutes brought by House Bill 301a include:
- Decreasing the default spacing unit for a vertical gas well from 640 acres to 160 acres and allowing federal minerals to be excluded from a spacing unit if the U.S. Bureau of Land Management fails to auction a lease for such minerals for at least six months.
Continue Reading Idaho Modifies Oil and Gas Statutes (Again)
Following up on last week’s post about Oregon legislative proposals, here are some of the mineral-related bills currently pending in the Washington State Legislature:
Oil and Gas
SB 5462 and HB 1611 – These two almost identical bills are follow-ups to the Oil Transportation Safety Act that was enacted in Washington two years ago. Among other things, SB 5462 and HB 1611 would (i) require that railroads transporting crude oil and petroleum products demonstrate financial ability to pay for a “worst case spill”; (ii) obligate refineries to account for different types of crude oil in their emergency planning and training; (iii) impose a public notice requirement if a refinery proposes to export more than 10% of its annual production; (iv) allow the Department of Ecology to share confidential information regarding oil transportation with elected local officials responsible for emergency response agencies; (v) levy oil spill response and administration taxes on crude oil and petroleum products delivered via pipeline to bulk oil terminals; and (vi) give the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) jurisdiction over crude oil pipelines that are at least five miles (rather than the current 15 miles) long.
Continue Reading Oil Transportation and Suction Dredge Mining Legislative Topics in Washington Too
The Oregon Legislature’s 2017 session officially kicked off last week. A variety of mineral-related bills have been introduced. Here are some of the ones to follow:
SB 3 – SB 3 is primarily focused on suction dredge mining. It would build on the 2013 enactment of a moratorium, currently in effect until 2021, on the use of motorized equipment engaged in small-scale precious metal mining of placer deposits (i) within and upstream of spawning habitat for salmon and bull trout, and (ii) 100 yards upland from such areas if water quality could be impacted. SB 3 would wrap Pacific lamprey spawning habitat into the moratorium, but would eliminate the prohibition on upland use of such equipment starting in 2019. Instead, the use of such equipment, regardless of the size of the operation, within 100 yards upland of any river’s ordinary high water line would be subject to the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries’ (“DOGAMI”) existing exploration and operating permit programs, including the associated reclamation requirements. Starting in 2021, suction dredge mining would be permanently prohibited in a wide variety of locations unless the mining concerned a federal mining claim and the prohibition would violate federal law. In those areas where suction dredge mining was allowed, it would require a removal-fill permit issued by the Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) rather than the Department of State Lands. SB 3 would also provide that the surface mining exclusion certificate required under ORS 517.753 only applies to commercial sand, gravel, and crushed stone operations.
Continue Reading Mineral-Related Bills Pending Before Oregon Legislature
Ready or not, California’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (“SGMA”) is here and mine operators should be vigilant in monitoring and actively participating in developments under the law. Previously, the use of groundwater was largely unregulated. Now local agencies are in the driver’s seat when it comes to addressing a very complex problem: managing groundwater to ensure sustainability.
Earlier this week, environmental consultant Bob Anderson, of Geosyntec and Stoel Rives attorneys Wes Miliband and Tom Henry hosted a webinar about the implications of SGMA for mine operators. You can view a recording of the webinar here. Below are a few key take away points for operators as they tackle SGMA.
The Compliance Timeline is Aggressive
SGMA requires the formation of local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (“GSAs”) that must assess conditions in their local water basins and adopt locally-based groundwater sustainability plans (“GSPs”). GSAs have already started to form and will be developed by June 30, 2017. Operators should investigate the proposed GSAs affecting their sites. The Department of Water Resources has developed a useful interactive map showing the proposed GSAs. Operators and the general public have the opportunity to be involved in the formation of GSAs and preparation of GSPs.
Continue Reading Why California’s New Groundwater Management Law is a Game Changer for Mine Operators
On January 20, Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz unveiled a “discussion draft” of the Utah Public Lands Initiative Act. The proposed bill undertakes the difficult task of balancing economic development and conservation on public land in the State of Utah.
Congressmen Bishop and Chaffetz began working together on the bill in February 2013. Since that time, more than 120 different stakeholders have submitted more than 65 detailed proposals regarding land management in eastern Utah. Altogether, their offices have held more than 1,200 meetings with local and tribal leaders, interested parties, and subject matter experts.
The bill is organized in two parts: “Division A” covers land protection and conservation and “Division B” covers recreation and economic development opportunities.
Division A creates forty-one new wilderness areas covering 2,274,373 acres of federal land. Wilderness is a legal designation designed to provide long-term protection and conservation of public lands. Wilderness areas are protected and managed so as to preserve the area’s natural surroundings in an unimpaired condition. Generally, motor vehicles and mechanical transport are prohibited in wilderness areas. However, the proposed bill makes certain exceptions for maintaining grazing facilities and access to water resource facilities.
Continue Reading Utah Congressmen Unveil Landmark Public Land Bill
Before leaving Washington, D.C. for the holidays, President Obama signed H.R. 2029 (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016), which repealed the ban on U.S. exports of crude oil. The repeal occurred just few days before today’s 40th anniversary of President Ford signing the ban into law. According to historical data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration,…
Major infrastructure developers received a notable holiday gift from Capitol Hill and the White House earlier this month with the December 4, 2015 enactment of the Highway Authorization Act. Title XLI of the Act promises to streamline both the authorization (license, permit, approval, etc.) and environmental review processes for covered projects.
To benefit from the Act’s streamlined process, an infrastructure project must (1) fall within a covered project category, (2) be subject to NEPA, (3) be likely to require a total investment of more than $200,000,000, and (4) not qualify for abbreviated authorization or environmental review under another statute. Covered project categories include:
- Renewable or conventional energy production
- Electricity transmission
- Surface transportation
- Ports and waterways
- Water resource projects not already covered under the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (33 U.S.C. 2348)