On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court held in United States Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association that the U.S. Forest Service was authorized to issue a special use permit granting a 0.1-mile right of way under the Appalachian Trail (“Trail”) to Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (“Atlantic”) for a proposed underground natural gas
Senate Bill 155, amending Alaska’s mineral tenure statutes, took effect April 30, but also addresses certain historical events affecting state mining claims. As previously reported, the amendments clarify who can hold state mining rights. But maybe more importantly, the law now addresses the effect of past qualification issues on the validity of the mineral interests.
Alaska law has long required that a corporation could hold state mining rights only if it is organized under U.S. law (including the laws of any state or territory) and qualified to do business in the State of Alaska. But in some instances, a mining claim’s history includes a time when a foreign entity held the mining claims or the business qualifications had lapsed in some manner and then been cured. The effect of these historical events on the current validity of the claims was unclear.
Continue Reading Changes to Alaska’s Mining Laws – Qualification Statutes
Stoel Rives is actively monitoring developments in the North Slope Area Plan (NSAP). This week, the Public Review Draft of the NSAP was issued for public review and comment. Comments must be received by mail, email, fax, or through the online public comment portal by not later than July 15, 2020. Comments may also be…
Governor Mike Dunleavy signed Senate Bill (“SB”) 155 amending Alaska’s mineral tenure statutes, effective April 30, 2020. The legislation addresses issues regarding qualification to hold state mining claims, location of claims, statements of annual labor, and automatic abandonment of mining claims. The amendments and additions to the statutes clarify a number of issues and assure that state mining claims are not deemed abandoned without due process.
SB 155 amends AS 38.05.190 to clarify who may hold exploration and mining rights. As amended, the law expressly authorizes limited liability companies qualified to do business in Alaska and registered trusts to acquire and hold state mining claims. Previously, it was not clear that these types of entities could hold claims, or what effect such ownership may have on the claims. The amendments include a notice and cure process by which the Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) may void a mining interest if a qualification defect is not cured within 90 days after notice. The requirement that an owner be a citizen of the United States or a business entity organized in the United States, with limited exceptions, remains in the statute.
Continue Reading Alaska’s Mineral Tenure Statutes Amended
The Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) Division of Mining, Land and Water has issued guidance for placer mining operations to comply with the state’s COVID-19 health mandates. Mining is identified as “critical infrastructure” in the Alaska Essential Services and Critical Workforce Infrastructure Order. Before traveling to their placer operation, and while at their operation,…
State of Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy has issued COVID-19 Disaster Order of Suspension No 2, suspending a long list of statutory and regulatory provisions. The list of suspended statutes includes AS 38.05.850 which authorizes the state to grant easements and rights-of-way for roads, pipelines, and other facilities associated with the extraction of minerals. Under…
Last month, the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) announced that it would be implementing electronic permitting procedures in response to office shutdowns caused by COVID-19. The electronic process will also serve as the initial step in developing a fully electronic permitting and reporting system.
The initial system will utilize “AOGCC-designed fillable PDF and…
The U.S. Department of Justice (U.S. DOJ) recently issued a memorandum stating that settlements, including consent decrees, entered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies can no longer include a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP), unless the SEP is expressly authorized by Congress. Companies and individuals accused of violating environmental laws and permits, like Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act permits, commonly agree to perform SEPs to fund projects that go beyond compliance instead of paying a higher cash penalty to the U.S. Treasury. Going forward, companies, individuals, and local governments will no longer have SEPs as a settlement option.
To support this policy reversal after more than 30 years, U.S. DOJ cites to the Miscellaneous Receipts Act, which grants only Congress the authority to decide how to appropriate federal funds. The U.S. DOJ views SEPs as federal funds, and, in U.S. DOJ’s opinion, the EPA and other federal agencies lack the authority to divert those funds to third party recipients and to select the projects that should receive the funds. The power of the purse rests squarely with Congress. “[W]ith SEPs, money otherwise destined for the Treasury finds its way to another destination, not at the insistence of Congress, where the Constitution puts that authority, but instead at the insistence of an administrative agency, or a non-federal entity, or some combination thereof.”…
Continue Reading Reversing 30-Year Policy, U.S. DOJ Says Settlements Can No Longer Include Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs)
Like many other regulators, on March 20, 2020 the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) released guidance on enforcement activity during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The guidance states that “PHMSA does not intend to take any enforcement action with regard to [operator qualification] and [control room management] requirements, and will consider exercising its enforcement discretion with regard to Part 199 drug testing requirements.” PHMSA is “taking into consideration the exigent circumstances” that may cause regulated operators difficulty in compliance with:
- 49 C.F.R. §§ 192.801-.809, 193.2707-.2709, 193.2713-.2717, and 195.501-.509 (operator requirements); and
- 49 C.F.R. §§ 192.631(d)(4) and 195.446(d)(4) and (h) (control room requirements).
PHMSA’s guidance provides that operators unable to maintain compliance with the regulations should communicate with their regulator and maintain documentation explaining:
- what specific requirements are not being met;
- how the noncompliance is related to COVID-19; and
- what alternative measures are being taken to ensure safety.
In my latest State Tax Notes column, I provide an update on H.B. 331, which was passed by the State Legislature in 2018 to create a mechanism to finance the purchase of some $700 million in outstanding rebatable tax credits. I also look at continuing budget tensions in the state, efforts to reduce and simplify…