« PreviousContinue »
1 for each such claim not less frequently than annually. If the
2 Secretary finds that the annual expenditure requirement has 3 not been met, the Secretary shall cancel the claim.
“(e) In addition to other applicable requirements, any
person who holds a lease pursuant to paragraph (2) of subsec6 tion (d) or who maintains a claim pursuant to paragraph (3) of 7 subsection (d) shall be required, by regulation, to reclaim the 8 site subject to such lease or claim and to post a bond before 9 disturbance of the site to guarantee such reclamation. The 10 Secretary of the Interior shall promulgate such regulations as 11 may be necessary to implement this subsection.".
HR 643 IH
Mr. RAHALL. I now yield such time as he may consume to the ranking minority member, the gentleman from Idaho, Mr. Craig.
Mr. CRAIG. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I am pleased you have called a hearing on H.R. 643, and instead of a prepared statement this morning, what I would like to do is take a lot of composite ideas and concerns and issues that spiral around this question of oil shale in Colorado that have been argued, and discussed, and cussed for well over 60 years without resolution.
I think what all parties are interested in, Mr. Chairman, from either the claimant's side, the State's side, or the environmental side, or the grazer's side, or whoever's side you wish to take, is the question of resolution. The issue has gone on too long. We are in our third generation of claimant and our second generation of environmentalists, and I think even all parties involved on those sides would like resolution.
Now the question is, does, in fact, H.R. 643 bring resolution in a fair and equitable way that provides reasonable opportunity while, at the same time, finality to the process? I would argue that, although the House spoke in a similar fashion in 1987, it spoke for political purposes and not for purposes of resolution, and, as a result, the Senate reacted, as they properly should have, and slamdunked the bill as being political in nature and not directive and procedural in its approach.
Does then your new bill meet a criterion that will bring resolution? I suggest to you, Mr. Chairman, it does not. It is too much a political statement of the past that brought no resolution last year, and if we are to bring some finality to this, we have to proceed in a reasonable manner. Let me see if I can't outline that.
There is no question that the $2.50-an-acre argument that you place in your opening statement is, in my opinion, in error. No longer can we, in effect, argue that $2.50 as a filing fee is an acreage cost. Last year, when the claimants before the committee in the Senate were willing to give up and spoke openly about giving up surface rights and seeking only the right to claim the mineral under the surface, did they, in fact, pass on, an argument of $2.50 an acre.
Two dollars and fifty cents is a filing fee to meet Federal Government filing requirements, and it should only be argued as that, and only that.
I talked with one claimant group that has spent well over $25,000 to date getting ready to make claim, and if your bill, with a "drop dead" date of January 25 were to go into effect, that money would go out the window. Now I don't think you can argue to them that they are paying only $2.50 an acre for a 400-acre claim in which they spent over $25,000 in preparation in the last 12 to 24 months.
I hope the record will show that a willingness to give up surface rights puts to bed for all time the rather fallacious argument that $2.50 is a charge per acre. Let me repeat, Mr. Chairman, it is a filing fee in compliance with Government regulations, period; end of statement.
Now how do we solve the problem? I don't think we solve the problem, as the environmentalists would like to do, by stepping backward into the past of February 5, 1987. I am not sure that we solve the problem by stepping backward into the past month by a few days, January 25. But I do think we solve a problem if we develop a line, a line of which you do not pass GO, that approaches finality.
Let me suggest-and I will say that this is not my proposal, this is a reasonable proposal from a multi-interest group in Colorado of local officials, environmentalists, claimants, and grazers, who are very concerned about surface, as I would be if I were a Coloradan, because I am a grazer, my background is such, and I don't want to see the land torn up for the purposes that would destroy grazing. They suggested a window of opportunity of no more than a year from the time of the enactment of this legislation in which claimants could move toward the process of filing a claim.
Now does that mean that all 1,600 would rush to spend literally thousands upon thousands of dollars for the purpose of being legitimate in that window of opportunity of 1 year? No, I suspect it doesn't. I suspect it means that less than 10 percent would be involved simply because of the reality of the resources involved, the question of its validity as it relates to being marketable under any reasonable scenario in the next 10 to 20 years, and ultimately because they simply could not afford to under any situation. It does offer some finality, to provide 2 years for the BLM, or 2 years for proving up and 1 year for BLM processing. All of that begins to work out a reasonable solution to a problem.
What does it do? It says to those who are extremely concerned about surface rights that, number one, the right of the surface will be foregone; therefore, you are not handing out at a $2.50-filing fee acreages of ground to be claimed for all time. I guess the western ethic of a decade ago, or two, or three, or ten, that allowed my grandparents and many other western grandparents to homestead the land and begin to develop it for the process and purposes of man's involvement out there I guess we are saying for all time that that is an issue of the past, and maybe we should.
But I don't think we should say for all time that those who have followed the processes legitimately should arbitrarily be taken out of business by a decision of this committee when they thought they were moving through the processes as outlined by the Federal Government.
Now having said that, I think it is reasonable that we should provide a window of opportunity, but, at the same time, we should provide a line with which no one should pass GO.
I would also think it is important, Mr. Chairman, to recognize that this is not a test of the 1872 mining law, nor do I believe that this should be an effort to weaken that law; 1872 still serves very well based upon all of its court tests and, of course, the myriad of rules and regulations that now allow a process under the 1872 law to go forward.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, if this is a country of equity, if this is not a country in which individual rights are easily taken away by those of us who seek to rule instead of serve, then I would suggest that we move beyond the political statement demonstrated in H.R. 643 to a very judicious approach that this committee ought to be taking if it wants to exert leadership in the area of mining and natural resource development and, in so doing that, design something that we can take to the Senate, meet before the appropriate Senate committees, and, in all good faith, say, this is a reasonable, negotiated approach that has finality, that arrives at a solution to a problem that has plagued the State of Colorado and the public resources of that State for well over 60 years but today we can say, in all fairness, brings together a procedure that concludes in a way in which all parties are reasonably treated, the resource is respected, and the environment is held intact for those who wish to use it in a judicious way.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. RAHALL. I thank the gentleman from Idaho for his opening comments.
As I said, the purpose of this hearing today is to examine various suggestions for addressing this situation. That is one reason I immediately agreed to the request of the gentleman from Idaho; the request of the ranking minority member, the gentleman from Alaska, Mr. Young; and the request of the gentleman from Wyoming, Mr. Cheney, to conduct these hearings prior to consideration of the pending legislation.
I am sure during today's hearing we will hear additional proposals, and they will be examined by the subcommittee and debated, and I would just say to the gentleman that my approach on this issue in no way reflects how I seek to address the overall mining laws of 1872.
So that is the only statement I wanted to make in response.
Mr. CRAIG. Let me say, if I didn't say it clearly enough before, that I appreciate your efforts in this area. I was firm in the test I want to put H.R. 643 to; but also let me say that your cooperation with those who have asked for cooperation on this issue is recognized, and I appreciate it.
Also, I would like to recognize the leadership of my colleague from Colorado, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who is clearly affected by this in his area. It is his State. It is a national issue and a national resource issue but, most importantly, affecting his State, and he has taken a strong leadership role in this area, and I appreciate that.
Mr. RAHALL. I was going to lead into my introduction of the gentleman from Colorado by saying very much the same thing, and I agree with the gentleman from Idaho. Mr. Campbell has been active and taken a leadership role on this issue since his first day in the Congress, and I will now recognize the gentleman from Colorado for any statement he wishes to make.
Mr. CAMPBELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I, too, appreciate you holding this hearing and was interested in Mr. Craig's comment about our last bill being political in nature. I have to tell you, I think one of us is in the wrong Congress; I think everything around here is political in nature; maybe that is my misconception.
His new lapel pin shows that he does have at least some interest in oil shale and some knowledge, too, and I am sure that he brings a great deal of knowledge to the hearing.
Mr. CRAIG. If the gentleman would yield, I recognize by this piece of oil shale on my lapel and your marvelous talent that if we can't merchandise it for purposes of squeezing crude out of—
Mr. CAMPBELL. Make jewelry out of it.
Mr. CRAIG. That by making some millions of bolo ties the claimants do, in fact, have a valuable resource.
Mr. CAMPBELL. I have no further comment about that. [Laughter.]
I would like to submit a complete statement for the record, Mr. Chairman, but would like to abbreviate by saying our country's early mining law had a clear and important purpose, and that was to help the opening of the West. The idea was to encourage the extraction and utilization of minerals in building a young economy.
The Mineral Lands Leasing Act of 1920 signaled a major change in mining policy. For the first time, the Government recognized the importance of retaining national resources for the good of the Nation. It replaced the claim patent system with a notion that the Government could lease the lands in question in mining interests. Unfortunately, Congress exempted pre-1920 oil shale claims from the 1920 law, intending to revisit that issue at a later date. It didn't until 1987, after Interior decided to settle outstanding oil shale claims as a result of litigation.
The public was quick to express its outrage over the 1986 TOSCO settlement. In response, you, Mr. Chairman, sponsored a bill to halt the sale of these lands, a bill which I helped on, at the same time to encourage legitimate claimholders who are serious about mining oil from these shale-laden acres.
Critics have argued that the bill represents a taking of property rights and that it is not fair to change the rules in the middle of the game. The bill would not, however, take away a claimholder's ability to profit from his investment. He still would be able to mine oil from the shale under a lease arrangement, as Occidental Oil has done.
The American public is conservative in this sense. It likes to hold on to what it has got not only from the mineral resources but those public land values that contribute to recreation and tourism. The public well understands the sale of Federal lands under the guise of oil shale development is a travesty and passed last year's bill on a three-to-one margin.
I believe the parties involved—the new administration, the oil industry, oil shale claimholders, county officials, the States, and members of the Senate-realize that this issue must be resolved legislatively once and for all, and that we must give opportunity to those who seriously want to mine oil shale and prevent those who do not from speculating on this land for enormous profits, and I look forward to today's hearing, Mr. Chairman.
[Prepared statement of Mr. Campbell follows:)