JurisdictionUnited States
Review and Analysis of the New BLM Surface Management (3809) Regulations


Michael B. Long
Division of Minerals and Geology Colorado Department of Natural Resources
Denver, Colorado

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1313 Sherman St., Room 215

Phone: (303) 866-3567

FAX: (303) 832-8106



Bill Owens


Greg E. Walcher

Executive Director

Division Director

Oral Remarks of Michael B. Long On Behalf of the Western Governors' Association Before the Committee on Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands of the National Research Council

February 17, 1999

On behalf of the Western Governors, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak this afternoon. Let me state, before getting into the background of WGA's involvement in today's subject, that the Western Governors have never opposed or downplayed the need for environmental protection. This is evidenced by institutions and programs that have been developed and implemented at the state level. These programs are a mix of federally delegated programs, as well as State-initiated regulatory programs.

We firmly believe that environmental protection is not only necessary, but, when implemented properly, benefits and encourages economic growth. Only when one is set against the other do they become competing interests. Our goal is to ensure that this competition does not occur.

We do this by recognizing that there must be a balanced and realistic approach to

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environmental regulation. Not just mining, but all growth and development activities. Mining is just one segment or part of that growth and development.

We recognize that mining is a temporary, short-term use of the land. It is a necessary activity that provides for not just local economic soundness, but also the minerals necessary for the country's continued economic growth and development. Domestic mineral production is necessary to minimize dependence on foreign sources and maintain our economic security.

WGA has been involved in discussions of mining regulation in various forms for over ten years. The national debate began with the regulation of mining wastes, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, evolved into reform of the 1872 Mining Law and, now, rewriting of the 3809 Regulations. Through this period, states have continued to develop and improve their respective regulatory programs. Statutes have been enacted, regulations developed, modified and policies put in place to deal with both real and perceived problems. As the industry has changed and evolved, so has state regulation. This has been a normal evolutionary process in regulatory development that will continue into the future. We do not believe it is a `do once and forget about it' exercise.

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We have constantly been faced with trying to determine what is the issue or problem in the field under the current 3809 regulations. We have found it difficult to determine what is being driven by the political agenda of policy makers in Washington, D.C. versus what are real problems in the field.

The resources that have been expended at the state and federal levels discussing mining regulation over the past ten years have been significant. These discussions have been educational and have provided impetus for states to reevaluate and improve their programs, but they have not defined or resolved what appears to be the perceived problem at the national level.

The question remains, other than extreme examples, where is the undue or unnecessary degradation? How will changes at the national level make a difference in the field?

We would hope that the use of anomalous situations or extreme examples will not drive the decision-making process on this issue. There needs to be a recognition that activities permitted in the past, under older regulations and statutes, should not be compared to more recent and future permit actions under newer state standards

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employing newer technologies and methodologies.

While it is easy to tell horror stories and employ scare tactics, we need to recognize that the issue is not that problems develop, it's how they are resolved.

Criticism of state programs often derives from a one-dimensional review. In other words, when looking at a state, only the mining program is reviewed. This does a disservice to the state. Each state regulatory program is constructed differently. Some include all media within a mining program, while others work in cooperation with environmental quality and wildlife programs that may reside with other state agencies. We would encourage you, in your review, to look at the entire state regulatory regime and consider the findings in your final report.

Western states are more than willing to work with federal agencies to improve our programs. What we ask, however, is that all existing programs are reviewed and fully implemented before additional regulatory programs are put in place.

In answer to your question of why the Western Governors supported this study, the Governors believe in efficient and effective governmental programs, which bring

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identifiable results, not regulation for the sake of ideology or regulation where no added benefit or improvement occurs. Further, they supported the study, because of the importance of mining to the region and because the federal government is a major landowner and manager in our states. Anything done on...

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