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.

HB 2106 – HB 2106 would make a variety of changes to Oregon mining law, including the following:  (i) specify the make-up of the five-member governing board of DOGAMI (e.g., one member representing environmental interests, one member representing the aggregate industry); (ii) like SB 3 (described above), specify that the surface mining exclusion certificate required under ORS 517.753 only applies to commercial sand, gravel, and crushed stone operations; (iii) tweak certain statutes concerning mining permit applications; (iv) provide that state bonding requirements do not apply to surfacing mining on federal land that complies with all federal financial guarantee requirements; and (v) for specified eastern Oregon counties, add mining to the list of 24 other uses allowed in exclusive farm use (EFU) zones under ORS 215.283(1).

SB 472 – SB 472 would prohibit suction dredge mining on the Rogue River between Lost Creek Dam and the Applegate River.

Oil and Gas

SB 7 and HB 2131 – These two bills both address spill prevention and emergency response plans for railroads transporting oil or other hazardous materials in Oregon.  SB 7 would appear to have a broader reach, as it would apply to railroad routes over which trains with “multiple” tanker cars carrying oil or hazardous materials travel.  In contrast, HB 2131 would apply to routes over which trains with more than 25 tankers cars carrying oil or hazardous materials travel.  From a practical perspective, though, the reach of these two bills may well be the same.  Under both bills, starting in 2018, subject railroads would need DEQ-approved spill prevention and emergency response plans that satisfy certain standards, including response times (e.g., deploying trained personnel and equipment needed to contain a “worst case spill and to protect the listed sensitive areas and potable water intakes that are at any location along the route”).  In addition, subject railroads would be required to satisfy financial responsibility requirements, potentially reaching hundreds of millions of dollars, based on a “worst case spill.”  Both bills would also require that subject railroads pay the state an annual safety assessment (totaling $375,000 per year under HB 2131).

HB 2711 – HB 2711 would prohibit, subject to certain exceptions, hydraulic fracturing in Oregon until the end of 2026.  This bill is a follow-up to HB 3415, which died in committee in 2015.   No hydraulic fracturing is occurring in Oregon.  Prior testimony by one of HB 2711’s co-sponsors relied on a 2014 U.S. Geological Survey map, which identifies the potential for undiscovered coalbed methane resources in western Oregon.  However, HB 2711 would not apply to coalbed methane production.  More importantly, DOGAMI previously testified to the complete lack of impacts to water supply wells or other waters from coalbed methane exploration in Coos County a decade ago.

Federal Lands

HB 2365 and SJM 4 – Both of these legislative proposals relate to the extensive amounts of federal land in Oregon (over 50% of the state), which played a role in the events one year ago at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  SB 2365 would establish a task force to investigate issues related to federal land ownership, including potential land transfers to the state.  SJM 4 would urge the federal government to transfer all federal lands in Oregon to the state.